It’s always a colorless, emotionally unbalanced day whenever “Christopher Robin” comes out to play. And as our hearts are warmed by the honey-filled belly of Winnie the Pooh, the lovable bear’s Taoisms aren’t enough to steer this misguided Disney venture through.
Following the animated-turned-live action success of Disney films like “Maleficent” and “The Jungle Book,” “Christopher Robin” imagines the titular young boy from A. A. Milne’s classic children story as a middle-aged, overworked father played by Ewan McGregor. This Christopher has not had a day of play for himself or with his family in quite some time, his mind and heart as foggy as the depressing London skies overhead. And when his overbearing boss requests the uninspired Christopher to work over the weekend, he has to break his vacation plans with wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael).
Enter Pooh. 30 or so years older without having lost a single hair on his yellow head, Pooh wakes up one day and is unable to locate Tigger, Piglet or any of his pals in the Hundred Acre Wood. Instead of just waiting for them to show, Pooh naturally seeks out Christopher’s help in London. The movie captures the tense relationship between grown-up Christopher and Pooh quite well. After decades of not seeing each other, Christopher is understandably annoyed by Pooh’s forgetfulness and rather than charmed. But every other relationship in the film is underdeveloped, with Christopher and Evelyn feeling not like a genuine married couple, Madeline appearing distant from both her parents, and even the furry residents of the Hundred Acre Wood acting more as strangers and less as neighbors.
It’s a bizarre mix tonally, because “Christopher Robin” wants to capitalize on the magic and nostalgia of the Hundred Acre Wood but without losing any of the realism of a live-action flick. The movie always seems to be “restarting” itself, with several introductions of plot elements but the true story never actually beginning until halfway through. While the CGI is good enough to make us want to hug the screen whenever Pooh saunters by or Eeyore floats towards his death, “Christopher Robin” as a whole looks drab and uninspired, a hastily colored storybook that needed much more light on its brim.
“Christopher Robin” is still a worthwhile romp, a flick with so much sweet joy and a sugary, positive attitude that just watching 30 seconds of Pooh waddling into Christopher’s arms could cause diabetes. Few people can remember what specifically happened in those classic Pooh books, but like “Christopher Robin,” they’ll never forget what they felt when they turned the page.