Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Review of CHRISTOPHER ROBIN: Fuzzy Fireside Feelings

August 21, 2018

Christopher Robin is now all grown up and married. He was overworked at a thankless job at stuffy old Winslow Luggages. Because of an emergency meeting scheduled on the weekend, he had to stay in London to work, while his disappointed wife Evelyn and daughter Madeline went on their long-planned vacation to their family cottage in Sussex. 

Meanwhile, Winnie-the-Pooh can't find any of his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, so he wandered into Christopher Robin's tree trunk door, climbed out and found himself in the heart of London. Right when Pooh sat on a park bench to rest, who would he see sitting on the bench behind him but his old friend Christopher Robin himself. 

Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends have been well-known to generations of kids since the first book A.A. Milne wrote about them was first published in 1926.  The images of Winnie-the-Pooh we are most familiar with are those done by Disney in 1966 for the animated featurette "Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree." Since then, Winnie-the-Pooh with his amber fur, his red midriff shirt and jar of honey had been a popularly beloved character. 

The main attraction of this new live action film "Christopher Robin" is for fans to see how Pooh and his whole gang will be brought to full-bodied furry life. I remember when I first saw the full trailer that showed how they rendered Pooh and his friends, especially my favorite Piglet, in CGI for this film -- I was overcome with heartwarming nostalgia. I almost wished they held off showing them fully in the trailers at all and just surprised us.

Seeing the adorable Pooh, endearing little Piglet, sprightly Tigger, doleful Eeyore, Kanga and Roo, Rabbit and Owl moving and talking in this film was simply so overwhelmingly delightful. The cuteness, charm and warmth of these dear characters radiated out of the big screen into our hearts. We would all like to reach into that screen and embrace these fluffy little creatures with our own arms. The voice work by Jim Cummings (Pooh and Tigger), Brad Garett (Eeyore), Nick Mohammed (Piglet), Sophie Okenedo and Sara Sheen (Kanga and Roo) gave us all warm fuzzy feelings.

Unlike the bright, comedic and modern "Paddington Bear" films, "Christopher Robin" went for a throwback old world nostalgia. Everyone was prim and proper in neat formal-looking clothes and speaking with crisp proper Queen's English accents. It was an age of innocence like this when it could still happen that a grown man can reconnect with his childhood toy friends. This genteel setting and dreamy atmosphere may come across as too slow for very young viewers.

Ewan McGregor was a very good choice to be the grown up Christopher Robin. He has the correct manner and the correct personality for the character, as a father, as a friend, as a child still trapped within the body of a stressed-out adult. I know Pooh was just a CG character, but McGregor actually had chemistry with it. Child actress Bronte Montgomery was remarkable as the daughter Madeline because she handled the role with maturity. Christopher's wife Evelyn was played by Haley Atwell. 

This film by Marc Forster will make us rethink our priorities in life as we grow older and get too engrossed in our jobs. It reminds us to pay more attention to the more important things in life we may have been ignoring -- our family, our children. Like Christopher Robin, we are all brought back to our own childhood as if they were all our own toys, especially since we really did grow up with them in some of the first books we read and animated films we watched as kids. 8/10. 

** Postscript: 

If you liked this film, I am also recommending you to also check out "Goodbye Christopher Robin" (Simon Curtis, 2017). This non-fiction film told about how author A.A. Milne (played by Domnhall Gleeson) was inspired to write "Winnie-the-Pooh" and how its phenomenal success affected the childhood of his son Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston as a child, and Alex Lawther as a young man). Margot Robbie also stars as Daphne Milne, Christopher's insensitive mother and Kelly MacDonald as Olive / Nou, Christopher's loving nanny. 7/10. 

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