Christopher Robin movie review: Disney's Winnie the Pooh spin-off is a feel-'great' film despite some tragic moments

Mihir Fadnavis

Aug 10, 2018 08:25:37 IST


Disney’s Christopher Robin is a sweet little entertainer, free of complications, offering simple delights with a truckload of twee moments and schmaltzy accompanying music to wrangle at your heartstrings. It does not match up to the narrative flourish and sheer entertainment value of the Paddingon films, but it is still cute enough to warrant a watch on the big screen.

Ewan McGregor and Winnie the Pooh in a still from Christopher Robin

Ewan McGregor and Winnie the Pooh in a still from Christopher Robin

The film, as you may already know, is a live action continuation of the Winnie the Pooh stories. The titular boy who became friends with the toy bear named Pooh has now all grown up, and has almost forgotten most things about his childhood. The grown Christopher (played by Ewan McGregor) is now scarred with war, overworked at his office and is having a slight mid-life crisis. So it was only logical that Pooh returns to his life in order to remind him of all the good times they had, and how he can fix the problems in his life.

Under the direction of Marc Forster, Christopher Robin feels like it belongs in the same universe as his Finding Neverland. Both films have a string of dainty chocolate box-like moments masquerading as a plot, and a protagonist so endearing and uncorrupted he could only exist in a story book. Pooh (voiced by the legendary Jim Cummings) is as charming as he is in the animated show, and the visual effects are so good that it is impossible to figure where practical effects end and the CGI begins. The gang of Pooh’s friends, including Tigger, Eyeore and Piglet are extremely cute, and you wish they had a bigger presence in the story. This is also a beautifully shot film – with DP Matthias Koenigswieser channeling some Terrence Malick-like visuals, particularly in the moments featuring children. There is a scene featuring Christopher and Pooh at a tree holding an air balloon that is so pretty you could screenshot, print and frame it.

On the downside, whether this is a kids’ film is moot. Surprisingly, this is a much heavier and somber watch than you expect it to be. There are plenty of emotionally weighty moments that younger audiences may not enjoy because they would be expecting something funny. Even the seemingly happy moments between Christopher and Pooh are executed with a melancholy mood that borderlines on tragedy. It is an odd choice of tone considering the Disney pedigree. The dependence on emotionally resonant moments as opposed to an engaging plot does not quite work at all times. This is because by the 50th sappy scene, you are numbed. And any subsequent mushy moment feels more and more inert. There is also a curious lack of action beats and despite the lavish period sets,  it is a small scale film even in the big moments.

The film does well to dance around the magic realism angle – some moments are left ambiguous regarding the existence of Pooh and his friends in the ‘real’ world, and whether they can actually talk. If the film went any darker, it would raise the question of whether Christopher has some mental issue where he sees talking animals every time he is stressed. In a world so screwy and sneering, maybe the deceptive charm of talking animals, who just want to be hugged, are what precisely we need.

(Also read: As China bans Christopher Robin, a timely reminder of how the philosophies of Confucius and Pooh are alike)

Updated Date: Aug 10, 2018 08:25:37 IST