Movie Review: ‘Christopher Robin’
Director: Marc Forster
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Jim Cummings, Hayley Atwell, Mark Gatiss, Brad Garret, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi, Sophie Okonedo, Toby Jones
Plot: Christopher Robin has not given much thought to the 100 Acre Woods since becoming an adult, caught up in the rat race of a wartime economy. With his job putting pressure on him and his connection to his family strained he his reminded of what is important by the return of Pooh and his friends.
Review: Marc Forster has had a strange career. He started out strong with the acclaimed Monster’s Ball and Finding Neverland, plus Stranger Than Fiction is an under appreciated gem. Things went from lacklustre to bad with The Kite Runner, Quantum of Solace, Machine Gun Preacher and World War Z. With this new Disney backed family adventure featuring beloved childhood characters it feels like he’s trying to recreate his last career peak.
Ewan McGregor plays Christopher Robin of Winnie the Pooh fame. Having left his imaginary friends for a strict bordering school, Robin then married, fought in the war and then began working as an efficiency expert for a luggage company. The high stress of trying to save his worker’s jobs has created a barrier between Robin and his wife and daughter. Just when everything begins falling apart Winnie the Pooh appears needing help to find his friends. Through Pooh, Robin remembers what is important and steers towards a better outlook on life.
Firstly, the residents of the 100 Acre Wood are absolutely the highlight of the movie. Their design exists somewhere between the original illustrations and Disney’s more familiar versions, and they’re incredibly well rendered. Jim Cummings has been voicing Pooh and Tigger for more than 20 years, so his inclusion in the cast makes them feel like the genuine article. McGregor is a good fit for the part, being naturally charismatic and with the experience to carry a film where he spends most of the running time working against a green screen.
The problem with the film is the pacing. We spend a great amount of time on the set up, establishing how exactly Robin went from dreamlike child to bitter adult complete with a range of characters who go nowhere from an office of workers to a nosy neighbour. They don’t have a clear idea of how to integrate Pooh’s plot thread about losing his friends, so they just randomly cut to it a few times until the two characters line up. It also felt like helping Pooh find his friends felt like it was going to have more meaning, with each perhaps metaphorically representing a lesson he needs to learn in life, but it turns out they were just hiding.
Forster seems determined to break the record for the most close ups in a single feature film. The camera is cutting back to feet, hands, sticks, small objects, faces, whatever, far more often than necessary. The editing feels scattered as a result and we don’t get to see Tigger bouncing around the screen because they only put about a 3rd of him into the frame at any given time.
Ultimately this was an enjoyable film, if held back by the problems listed above. The concept – basically Hook with Pooh characters – is fine and the message is sound, but they may have rushed the script through without refining it. We don’t need to see a long, protracted first act depicting how Christopher Robin became jaded, we could’ve joined the dots on that because, you know, war.
It’s possible the that the message hit a bit harder for me because I am a parent of young children, one of whom complained that I spent to much time working a few weeks back. The movie delivers as expected, but I feel that they could’ve ironed this one out a bit more.
Rating: SIX out of TEN