The retirement of one’s childhood, and graduation into adolescence and ultimately adulthood, is one of life’s most unsettling events. Stuffed animals and other assorted toys and memories are boxed away and forgotten. First love takes precedence over everything else for many. And then work and family, but mostly work, occupies much of the brain, sometimes making one forget about their family.
As Disney/Pixar did so wonderfully with Toy Story 3, creating a film that explores the loss of childhood and metamorphosis into adolescence, they have done again with what promises to be the month of August’s best and most satisfying theatrical release, Christopher Robin, going where few movies have gone so spectacularly, this time fast forwarding more than 30 years in the life of an overworked and stressed out Christopher Robin (played brilliantly by Ewan McGregor), who has lost his imagination, and touch with his wife, Evelyn, (Hayley Atwell) and daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael).
The live action film, with CGI stuffed animals (that really look like furry stuffed animals, not like computer generated characters) directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) takes a happier turn, and all of that doom and gloom changes when Christopher Robin’s childhood friends — Winnie-the-Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger, too, (couldn’t resist), and the rest of the gang — magically emerge from the Hundred Acre Wood (more about that later).
The PG rated film boasts the exceptional voice talent of Jim Cummings (Pooh and Tigger), and Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond’s Robert), who plays a very, very dark and sometimes seemingly suicidal Eeyore. “I guess I’m going over the waterfall,” he deadpans, not caring that he thinks he is going to die, as he floats down a stream that we find out is about one foot deep and has a drop of less than two feet.
The movie starts out with young Christopher Robin (played to perfection by newcomer Orton O’Brien) preparing for boarding school and bidding farewell to his imaginary friends with one last picnic in the Hundred Acre Wood.
In a series of a combination of drawings and vignettes, the film flash forwards thirty years where Christopher Robin (McGregor) is married to Evelyn. One night, he is so stressed out, due to the demands of his job, that when his daughter, Madeline, asks him to read a bedtime story to her he picks up a book about the history of England, literally boring her to sleep, and she politely tells him, “Daddy, I think I am going to go to sleep now.” To make matters worse, he wants his daughter who is bordering adolescence to go to boarding school like he did, but she has no desire to do any such thing.
After a planned weekend family trip to their country cottage in Sussex, from London, goes awry, because Christopher Robin must spend the weekend home alone to slave away on office work that needs to be completed by Monday, (he is tasked with coming up with a plan on cutting expenses at the luggage company where he works by 20%, or else), Pooh appears, the two cross paths in the park across from Christopher’s London home, and adventure ensues. Not before Christopher Robin tries to ditch Pooh, however, dragging him back from London to Sussex, stopping to buy a red balloon for Pooh at the train station and losing Pooh for a minute or two before catching the train right as it departs.
Oscar winning costume designer Jenny Bevan (A Room With A View, The King’s Speech, Sense and Sensibility, Mad Max: Fury Road) outdoes herself with Christopher Robin, even with the muted hews and tones she is required to work with.
Even though this is cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser’s first feature film, you’d think he was one of Hollywood’s most esteemed veterans. Everything from 1940s London to the English countryside to the Hundred Acre Wood are brought to life so vividly.
Production designer Jennifer Williams spares no details in recreating a long lost London, which is replete with father and son milk delivery man and boy and grimy train stations.
Does Pooh and company help Christopher Robin get his imagination back? Does Christopher Robin finally realize that family is more important than work? Does Madeline end up having to go to boarding school?
To put it simply, Christopher Robin tugs at your heartstrings and is the perfect summer family film that appeals to the child inside all of us, whatever our age.