Christopher Robin (2018)

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Deep in the hundred acre woods, where Christopher Robin plays, you’ll find the enchanted neighborhood of Christopher’s childhood days. A donkey named Eeyore is his friend, and Kanga, and little Roo. (And Tigger too!) There’s Rabbit, and Piglet, and there’s Owl, but most of all, Winnie The Pooh. But soft, it seems that all is not right, for Christopher’s now grown up. He’s married, a father, and works all night, with scarcely a beat to look up. And so, without their friend to play, the toys have vanished into the blue. Someone must find dear Christopher Robin, and that someone is Winnie the Pooh.

Guys, I love Winnie the Pooh. I LOVE him. I had the toys when I was a kid, I watched the show that was on in the 90s, and, at one point or another, I’ve owned every single film in the franchise. Yes, including The Tigger Movie, and The Search For Christopher Robin. So I’m not exaggerating when I say that when I found out they were making a live action movie where Pooh and company must enter the real world and save a grown-up Christopher Robin, I squealed with delight. It was like someone had read my eight year old mind and made what I’d always wanted into reality. So yeah, I watched it when it came out. And yeah, I liked it. A LOT! This is a sweet, beautifully acted, very well-directed movie. I especially want to emphasize that last point. Marc Forster, who helmed this picture, did an incredible job here. The costumes, the sets, the music, and the use of color are all fantastic. There’s one sequence where Pooh and Christopher are wandering through the Hundred Acre Wood, which has grown gloomy and grey in the latter’s absence, and the use of light and fog was extremely effective, and suspenseful. It almost felt like a horror movie. So, again, I’ve got to give props to the direction. But easily the best thing about this movie are the characters. They’re sweet, funny, and so, so lovable. All the humor with Pooh is perfect. Literally perfect. Something else that I really appreciated with this movie is the fact that Disney didn’t try to modernize the material here. See, in the past, they’ve taken characters from their other animated franchises, like Timon and Pumba, Donald Duck, or Goofy, and attempted to make them more “hip” by throwing in tons of modern music and pop culture references. But with Winnie The Pooh, they’ve wisely chosen to avoid that. Virtually every incarnation of the character has existed in more or less the same setting, a mid-20th century English countryside, and the stories have remained consistent; Pooh gets stuck in a hole, someone misreads a word, which leads to them getting scared, and going on an adventure, etc. And that’s good. That’s how it should be. Winnie The Pooh’s charm lies in the fact that it is simple, it is quaint and gentile. It’s about a boy using his imagination to play with his toys. That doesn’t happen in this day and age, where kids have cell phones. So it wouldn’t work in a modern context. Also, there’s something to be said for the fact that all incarnations of the source material, even the classic, animated ones, have a bittersweet tinge to them. They all end with Christopher Robin needing to leave, both literally and figuratively. They are always about having to grow up, and put childish things away, and how maybe that’s not always a good thing. This film captures that sentiment to a T, with there being one montage in the beginning where we watch Christopher grow up, and forget about his friends in the hundred acre wood, that had me weeping. Seriously, if you grew up with Winnie The pooh, and don’t cry a little bit during this movie, something’s wrong with you.

Now, as you can probably tell, I have deep nostalgia for the source material. So it’s hard for me to assess this film objectively. But I’ll do my best, because, believe it or not, there are some things I didn’t like about it. For starters, it’s very slow. There was a point about 20 minutes in where I actually began to wonder when Pooh and company would show up. I don’t think this is a film that young kids will enjoy, simply because it takes its time. That and the fact that the humor is a bit more sophisticated.  In my theater, it was the parents, and not the kids, laughing at all the jokes, and going “aw” at all the sweet moments. And, finally, as much as I love the idea of seeing a grown up Christopher Robin having to learn the value of child-like imagination again, it is still a very standard Disney storyline. So if you go to see this movie, do so knowing that you’ve seen it before.

Other than that, I have no complaints whatsoever. This movie is exactly what I wanted it to be, an, in my opinion, is far better made than perhaps it had any right to be, with the acting, production design, effects and direction all being top notch. Please, please, please go see this movie. I guarantee that you’ll love it.

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