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“Goodbye Christopher Robin” reveals the origins of Winnie the Pooh

There is perhaps no more beloved children’s book or character than Winnie the Pooh. For nearly a century now, kids have been delighted by this bear. As such, there’s an avenue for a biopic about author A.A. Milne and the origins of this story. Opening on Friday, Goodbye Christopher Robin seeks to transform Milne’s tale into something that will touch audiences of all ages. Unfortunately, this is a pretty standard issue biopic, without any thing to really set it apart. Awards prospects are slim, but more on that later. Pooh fans might see it as a curiosity, but this writer mostly just views it as a disappointment.

The film is, as mentioned above, a biopic of writer A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), the man who created Winnie the Pooh. Struggling after seeing the horrors of World War I, A.A., or Alan, finds peace by creating a world with his son C.R. Milne, also known as Christopher Robin. His wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) is far from warm, so this is initially just a wonderful bonding opportunity. Then, once he publishes the story he wrote for Christopher Robin, their creation Winnie the Pooh becomes a worldwide phenomenon. Much is asked of Christopher Robin, especially by his mother, with Alan powerless and nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald) the only one speaking out for the boy. Simon Curtis directs a script by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan. The supporting cast includes Shaun Dingwall, Alex Lawther, Richard McCabe, Stephen Campbell Moore, Will Tilston, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and more. Carter Burwell contributes the score here, while cinematography is by Ben Smithard. The work is fine from all involved, though the flick itself never gets out of neutral.

Movies like this always run the risk of coming off as stodgy and boring. Sadly, this one is incredibly dull. It isn’t until midway through the third act that things get a little lively, but that’s when the emotions are laid on pretty thick. It just doesn’t work. Gleeson is fine and Robbie is an ice queen, but nothing connects here. Not focusing on Winnie the Pooh in any real way gives things a human touch, but that also prevents the youngest of audiences from engaging with this at all. No matter how you slice it, this one is a definite disappointment. The origins of Pooh are worth exploring, but this project doesn’t do it in a satisfying manner.

Goodbye Christopher Robin seemed like a clear Oscar play by Fox Searchlight from the start, but nominations strike me as unlikely now. Still, a campaign will probably be launched, focusing in on Best Picture, Best Director (for Curtis), Best Actor (for Gleeson), Best Supporting Actress (for Macdonald and Robbie), Best Original Screenplay (for Boyce and Vaughan), and Best Original Score. The only play initially seemed like Robbie in Supporting Actress, but that won’t be happening now. Her baby is I, Tonya this year, without question. This is likely a shutout situation. Frankly, the quality just isn’t there for this one to really contend.

Opening this week, Goodbye Christopher Robin hopes to find Winnie the Pooh fans flocking to theaters. He’s an appealing bear after all, even if he’s hardly the focus here. Family friendly biopics are rare beats, so perhaps Fox Searchlight is on to something? My guess is no, but anything is possible. The talent involved her might make this a slight curiosity on the art house circuit though. Robbie fans should stay tuned for I, Tonya though, since I’ve seen that and it’s mind-blowingly amazing. For now, check this one out if you choose and stay tuned to see if it manages to catch on in any way…

Be on the lookout for Goodbye Christopher Robin, in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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