by George Wolf
Pooh! Who doesn’t love him?
Winnie T. Pooh and the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood have endured for decades, and now the second Pooh film is less than twelve months brings all the furry friends to live-action life.
Last year’s Goodbye, Christopher Robin was a bittersweet and uneven origin story, focusing on the inspirations for A.A. Milne’s Pooh tales.
Christopher Robin drops both the goodbye and the bitter in becoming a grown-up fantasyland with an easily digestible, greeting card-ready sentimentality.
Mr. Robin (Ewan McGregor, charming as always) has put the Hundred Acre Wood long behind him, with a wife (Hayley Atwell), a young daughter (Bronte Carmichael – great name!) and a working-class job as an efficiency expert at a London luggage company.
He’s lost sight of the joy in life, and when a crisis at work means Christopher will miss another weekend family getaway, fate intervenes with a much-needed Pooh crew reunion.
The CGI effects that bring the animals to life are wonderful, the voice work (including Brad Garrett, Toby Jones, Sophie Okonedo, Dr. Who‘s Peter Capaldi and voice acting veteran Jim Cummings) is spot on, the humor warm and the message fuzzy.
What’s missing is depth. There’s no real attempt to find any, and that’s a bit surprising with the filmmaking talent involved.
The director is Marc Forster, and the writing team includes Tom McCarthy and Alex Ross Perry. Between them, those three have some serious depth on their resumes, including Spotlight, Up, Listen Up Phillip, Queen of Earth, Monster’s Ball, Stranger Than Fiction, The Kite Runner and more.
The result is similar to David Lowery’s live-action take on Pete’s Dragon two years ago, where a filmmaker skilled at nuance within serious themes took on a children’s classic and struggled with when to stop simplifying.
Christopher Robin is sweeter than the “hunny” jars Pooh dives into, but nearly as empty as he leaves them. In trying to showcase the need for simple wonders, the film settles awkwardly between a child’s fable and wistful remembrances from grandparents.
There’s plenty to like, but little to love.