“Christopher Robin” of Disney: It will make you cry a lot

“Christopher Robin,” a movie I wept through, is directed by Marc Forster (“Finding Neverland,” “Quantum of Solace,” “World War Z”). It stars Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin alongside Hayley Atwell and incredibly designed and animated stuffed animals.

It is a dark (both visually and thematically) weep-fest that is heavy on Eeyore. Thanks to its impeccable visual effects and McGregor’s necessary presence. It is an excellent movie for those who are connected to A.A. Milne’s quirky characters from the Hundred Acre Wood.

The film’s first hour, which focuses on Christopher Robin in his adulthood (He works for a luggage company. But he doesn’t make enough time for his wife and daughter). That is quite unnerving and has an unexpected war scene. It’s meaningful and tragic for the adults like me who relate to him. But probably boring for kids who don’t understand the context.

Through some honey magic or something (it’s cute and doesn’t need an explanation)

Pooh and Christopher reunite in a park in London. McGregor — who is truly the heart and soul of any movie he’s in. Including the “Star Wars” prequels — captures Christopher Robin’s distaste for Pooh’s sudden intrusion. As well as a conflicting need for Pooh at this horrible period in his life. The two go on a journey throughout London. Which is where the joyful comedic elements of the film start to sprinkle in and bring it a little more life.

But it’s not until the whole gang (Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl, and Rabbit) reunites with Christopher Robin that the movie picks up. His guilt for abandoning Pooh for so long brings him back to the Hundred Acre Wood. That to help him find his friends, who are apparently missing.

After Christopher Robin convinces them he is not a Heffalump with the help of Eeyore. Who is used so well and as often as the film’s dark tone suggests — they’re all reunited at last.

From then on, you’ll cry nostalgic, happy tears instead of tears about how dreadful adulthood is.

When I tried to describe the movie’s tone to my colleagues after I saw it. I said, without really thinking: “It’s like, ‘Paddington’ but ‘Dunkirk.'” And that’s not an insult: a live-action movie featuring A.A. Milne’s beloved characters wouldn’t have worked any other way.

Both of the iridescent “Paddington” films exude brightness and pure joy. Even in the sequel’s villain, played by the charming Hugh Grant. And that makes sense for that character. But “Christopher Robin” focuses on the dark but meaningful themes that many overlook in Milne’s work. Because of the goofy (but mostly great) animated Disney Winnie the Pooh shows and movies that defined many childhoods.

Milne’s characters represent adult themes, and the screenplay reflects this: Eeyore’s self-deprecation and depression, Piglet’s crippling anxiety, Pooh’s somehow wise idiocy, and Tigger’s ego.

“People say nothing is impossible,” muses Winnie the Pooh, “but I do nothing every day.”

If only the lovable bear’s latest adventure were more willing to take that wisdom to heart — and if only “Christopher Robin” didn’t have so much in common with its namesake, who desperately needs to do a little bit less.

A clever, hectic chimera that brings your favorite stuffed animals to life in the real world, “Christopher Robin” awkwardly marries the handcrafted feel of A.A. Milne’s stories with the magical-realism of the animated Disney movies they inspired. The results are sweet and dreary in equal measure, like tea and honey on a bleak London day.

Director Marc Forster stitches together a lovingly overstuffed comedy that reflects the best and worst of its hero. Like Christopher Robin himself, the film runs deep with all manner of repressive joy. And like Christopher Robin itself, the film is far too busy to make the most of it.

But while “Christoper Robin” may fail to make something out of nothing, it’s far too smart and spirited to make nothing out of something. On the contrary, this post-modern Pooh has a little to offer anyone who’s ever loved these characters (if also too much for everyone to love how they’re used here).

At once both a little more fun and a lot more unsettling than last year’s “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” Forster’s take is likewise focused on the author’s son and frequent subject, but hinges on a conceit that liberates it from the strictures of a standard biopic.

INFO:

Rating: PG (for some action)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Kids & Family
Directed By: Marc Forster
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael
Written By: Allison Schroeder, Tom K. McCarthy
In Theaters: Aug 3, 2018 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Nov 6, 2018
Runtime: 120 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Paul Byrnes
The film is charming, even with the usual Disney paw prints on the themes. Forster handles the comedy with skill and the sentiment with restraint.

Oliver Jones
A better title for this entry, the first of the Disney Poohs to be live action (although neither word in that phrase is an apt descriptor), would be Winnie the Pooh and the Unfilled Zoloft Prescription.

Robin Wright
It’s a delicious movie to see in these last, lazy days of August, when summer has slowed not quite to nothingness but at least to the bliss of a warm day that begins with a bird’s song and ends without a worry as to what work has not been done by dusk.

Matthew Norman
A gently sweet film which, without realising its early melancholic promise, aims a little higher than the bear necessities required of a Disney merchandising cash cow.

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