Tag Archives: Winnie the Pooh

Sweeter Than Hunny

Christopher Robin

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.


Behind the Bear

Goodbye Christopher Robin

by George Wolf

Even a story born to combat sadness can have a dark side, and Goodbye Christopher Robin explores one in a film that is perfectly acceptable without ever becoming truly memorable.

The story at its heart, of course, is Winnie the Pooh, the fantasy world A.A. Milne created for his young son which became a cultural touchstone that still thrives today.

Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) returned from service in WWI with recurring flashbacks and an ambition to move beyond writing light entertainment and produce a work that would persuade readers to fully appreciate the horror and folly of war.

Retreating from the bustle of London to the solitude of the English countryside with this wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) and son Christopher (Will Tilston in an incredibly cute debut), Milne finds no inspiration until the boy (known to the family as “Billy Moon”) asks his dad to write him a story.

Extravagant wealth soon follows, along with intrusive fame, bringing confusion and heartache to a little boy who doesn’t understand why he has to share his life with the world, or why a father would write about his son instead of for him. Comfort often comes not from his parents, but from the emotional closeness of his relationship with nanny Olive aka “Nou” (Kelly Macdonald).

Director Simon Curtis (Woman in Gold, My Week with Marilyn) wraps it all in a wondrous, often childlike sheen, but juggles too many contrasting themes to find a truly resonate focus. The script, from Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan, offers fly-by attention to war, childhood, celebrity infatuation and those stereotypically British stiff upper lips.

The entire cast is game, the execution workmanlike and the story endearing. But Goodbye Christopher Robin, much like the family it spotlights, too often settles for safety over emotional connection.