By Chic DiCiccio
There are companies that understand branding … and then there is Disney. For example, Disney took an animated movie from 1967 based on a collection of stories initially published in 1894 and turned it into one of 2016’s critical and box office hits, “The Jungle Book.” If Disney can market stories from two centuries ago, they can market anything.
Of course, it should not be that difficult to sell “Christopher Robin,” a live action-CGI adaptation of A.A. Milne’s beloved characters from “Winnie the Pooh.” There’s a good chance that every kiddo from coast to coast will be jazzed to watch Tigger bounce around in the real world. But as always, great success for movies such as this boils down to one thing: will adults enjoy it enough to buy tickets?
Well, yes and no. There’s plenty to downright love about “Christopher Robin” and many of its themes will hit pretty close to home for working class adults. However, adults who are quickly turned off by overly sweet and simple children’s movie plotting could be watching the movie’s second half through rolling eyeballs.
After the tear-jerking opening credits, we meet an adult Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor). He’s overworked, stressed, joyless, and, if you needed to be even sadder, an absentee father and husband.
His wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), has planned a holiday weekend for Christopher and their daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), but guess what? Work gets in the way and Christopher ends up at home.
After years of waiting, Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) leaves the Hundred Acre Wood to ask Christopher for help in finding his friends.
This leads to the best chunk of the movie as Pooh helps Christopher remember what it’s like to not be, well, a jerk. Sure, it’s all basic “grumpy adult rediscovers his inner kid” stuff, but McGregor is likable enough to keep it from being a chore.
Director Marc Forster stays true to the characters that Milne created and each of them behaves exactly as you’d expect.
There is much to be said about the perfect voice casting of Brad Garrett as the clinically depressed Eeyore and Peter Capaldi’s obsessive compulsive Rabbit, who doesn’t nearly get enough screen time.
Where Forster and the script (credited to five writers) excel is how the characters appear on screen. The CGI is impeccable as each of them look exactly like stuffed animals and they never do anything spectacular or supernatural. The gorgeous camerawork borders on Malick-like, especially when the film stays in the forest. It is easily one of the prettiest, most pleasing to watch movies of the current year.
But “Christopher Robin” may be too earnest for its own good. It’s intent on beating its lessons into you and maybe strikes at your tear ducts one too many times. Thankfully, at just 104 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome and even the cheap emotional tricks aren’t too painful.
“Christopher Robin” is an easily digestible Disney movie that shouldn’t annoy too many parents, even after multiple viewings. It’s actually quite melancholy in spurts and at certain moments, even the darkest of hearts may need to blame a dusty room for those wet eyes. If anything, it’s worth a view just to see some of the most seamless CGI in movie history.