The Movie Guru: Winnie the Pooh and Ewan McGregor bring the magic in Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’
Rating: PG for some action.
Screenplay by: Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy and Allison Schroeder, story by Greg Brooker and Mark Steven Johnson, based on characters created by A.A. Milne and Ernest Shepard.
Directed by: Marc Forster.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss, Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi and more.
Guru’s Grade: Three and a half stars.
You’re never too old for magic.
That’s the sweet, charming message at the heart of Disney’s “Christopher Robin.” The movie imagines an adult Christopher Robin re-uniting with his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood, and anyone who spent their own childhoods with Winnie the Pooh and company will likely find themselves getting choked up as well.
Rather than being a fantasy based on the actual Christopher Robin Milne’s life, the movie seems more like what would happen if the character of Christopher Robin grew up, moved to London and got sucked into a stressful, unpleasant job. He’s trapped in a particularly awful weekend when his childhood friend Winnie the Pooh shows up, leading him on an adventure that helps him rediscover the magic of his childhood and re-connect with the things that matter most.
The movie has the light, whimsical touch of a fairy tale, along with a surprising embrace of magic as a highly practical thing. Rather than pass the entire thing off as a vivid dream the way another movie might, Winnie the Pooh and his friends are solid, physical creatures that can be heard by absolutely everyone. This leads to a few fairly funny moments in the movie, including one that forces Ewan McGregor to say the sentence “You don’t take a teddy bear from a grown man!” with a straight face.
Occasionally, though, the innocent matter-of-factness of the movie can trip the adult brain up a bit. Upon finding that Pooh has followed him to London, Christopher does have a few minutes where he thinks he’s gone crazy. Soon, however, he begins treating a walking, talking stuffed bear with the same practicality he would a slightly dotty cousin who’d shown up unexpectedly. This leads to a later scene where he looks straight at Winnie the Pooh and says, in all seriousness, that there’s no way Heffalumps and Woozles can possibly exist. Watching, I had the desperate urge to raise my hand and ask him if he knew he was saying this while standing in a pocket reality hidden in a tree trunk.
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Never Grow Up
Even that, though, is forgivable when compared to the sweetness and magic radiating out of the movie. Too many fantasy films seem to say that adulthood means leaving magic behind you — I’m looking at you, “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” — but “Christopher Robin” is firmly in the opposite camp.
Though Christopher seems to think he had to leave behind childish things in order to be a responsible adult, Pooh, Eeyore and everyone else disagree with that assessment strongly. They see him getting older as a relatively minor thing, and no barrier to the kind of fun they all used to enjoy together.
McGregor has the innocence needed for this version of Christopher Robin, along with a face suited to both worried solemnity and bright-eyed joy. Haley Atwell isn’t given nearly enough to do as his wife Evelyn, but Bronte Carmichael is an absolute delight as daughter Madeline. Jim Cummings does his usual delightful job voicing both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, and of the newer voice actors Brad Garrett is the best as a suitably gloomy Eeyore.
No matter how grown up you think you are, they’re delightful company.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at themovieguruslc @gmail.com.