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Disney brings back Winnie the Pooh and friends for “Christopher Robin”

The latest in a rather long and profitable string of animated properties getting the live action treatment, Christopher Robin opts to do things a little bit differently. Instead of leaning in to the child audience, a good portion of this family film looks to get in good with the parents. The flick may even challenge younger viewers with its meditative pace at first. Nostalgic parents though, they’ll probably dig on it. After all, Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger too) are staples of youth. Opening this weekend, Christopher Robin is the newest and most artful in Disney’s quest to showcase all of their classic properties.

This movie looks at title character Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor), who spent his childhood playing with his toys and loving life. Living playthings like Winnie the Pooh (voice of Jim Cummings), Tigger (voice of Cummings as well), Eeyore (voice of Brad Garrett), Piglet (voice of Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (voice of Peter Capaldi), Kanga (voice of Sophie Okonedo), Roo (voice of Sara Sheen), and Owl (voice of Toby Jones). Christopher then began to grow up, leaving his friends behind. Now an adult, he leads an unhappy middle class life, worked to death in the office of a luggage company. Wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) only know the sad man he has become. Then, as he’s struggling with pressures at work, Pooh and company return. What follows is an adventure that helps him recapture the joy in his life. Marc Forster directs a script co-written by the A-list crop of Greg Brooker, Mark Steven Johnson, Tom McCarthy, Alex Ross Perry, and Allison Schroeder. The rest fo the cast includes Oliver Ford Davies, Mark Gatiss, and more. Matthias Koenigswieser handles the cinematography, while the score comes from Jon Brion and Geoff Zanelli.

There’s an interesting disconnect here. With shots that look like something out of a Malick film, as well as long periods set within corporate England, a good portion of the flick is unconcerned with capturing a child’s attention. Unfortunately, those are the parts that bored me. Once the toys are back in Christopher’s life, things pick up. Had there been a little more fun here, it would have been a great nostalgic blast. As it stands, it’s a mixed bag. Still, families looking for innocent fun have something more than acceptable here. Forster and company just go about it in a different way than you’d expect.

Disney actually would do well to make this into a franchise. Having gotten the origin story of sorts out of the way, we could just go on a full adventure with Pooh and friends next. The Robin family would be on board, perhaps winding up in the 100 Acre Woods? The shortcomings here could be avoided. Maybe I’m just impatient, but it took far too long for the nostalgia to kick in. A follow up wouldn’t have that problem at all. These furry characters are so lovable, we’ll certainly come back for more. More of Pooh and less of McGregor/his middle management issues would have made this a huge winner.

Now in theaters as you’re reading this, Christopher Robin is something the whole family can get into. It’s not on the level of The Jungle Book, for example, but it shows again that the company that is Disney can make live action out of almost anything. McGregor gives it his all, so while he’s not given a whole lot to do, hearing Cummings do the voice of Pooh is a joy. They all team up to do their best to make you smile. If you have a soft spot for the characters, I suspect you’ll be doing that during the film. Give it a shot and see for yourself…

Be sure to check out Christopher Robin if you’re a Pooh fan, now playing in theaters everywhere!

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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