Watching the commercials and the trailer for “Christopher Robin,” I had serious doubts about this family movie that takes the story of a real boy and his beloved bear into adulthood. But the movie moved me to tears, taking back to a time when I believed in Pooh and often visited the Hundred Acre Wood.
There was, of course, a real Christopher Robin Milne (1920-1996), who wrote his autobiography, “The Enchanted Places,” about his trouble relationship with both his father, A.A. Milne (1882-1956), and the characters his father created. Christopher Robin was recently portray in Fox Searchlight’s 2017 “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” with Domhnall Gleeson as his father, A.A. Milne and Margot Robbie as his mother, Daphne de Sélincourt, and Will Tilston as the young Christopher Robin and Alex Lawther as the older. This Christopher Robin, like his father, went to war. Both probably suffered from what we now call PTSD but were at the end of the movie reconciled. Not so, in real life, was Christopher Robin with his mother. “Goodbye Christopher Robin” was not a children’s movie and instead of serving up nostalgia, it was a contemplation on the child celebrity.
Disney’s “Christopher Robin” plays with history and takes us from the very pages of the childhood classic to a party where Christopher Robin is given a farewell party by the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood. Rabbit and Owl are presented as live animals who talk while Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Kanga and Roo and Tigger are all animated, talking stuffed animals. These are not the delightfully colorful depictions we’re used to in the Disney animated series. Tigger is not bright California poppy orange nor is Pooh a bright yellow orange. The characters hark back to the original stuffed animals in color although their forms fit somewhere in between.
In quick succession we go through a changed history. Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien) attends boarding school where he’s forced to forget about childish things and, with the death of his father, becomes the man of the house. He (now played by Ewan McGregor) eventually marries, goes to war and comes back to be stuck in a job as an efficiency expert at Winslow Luggages, under the supervision of the owner’s son, Giles Winslow Jr. (Mark Gatiss). Junior has been taking credit for Christopher Robin’s work and this time, requests that he cancel his planned holiday to cut the costs by 20 percent.
His daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) and his wife, Evelyn (Haley Atwell) go on vacation. Christopher Robin works on numbers but on the way home, while dodging a pesky neighbor, he runs into Winnie the Pooh, who has traveled to London through the magical portal, the same one that as a boy, Christopher Robin used to enter and exit the Hundred Acre Wood. Winnie the Pooh needs his old friend because all of the rest of the animals have disappeared.
Of course, Christopher Robin will find a solution–both in the Hundred Acre Wood and in his real world. We’ll find that Pooh also has a place in both realms and the villain, Giles Winslow Jr. will get his due and that Old Man Winslow (Oliver Ford Davies) is neither a bad boss or a bad man.
Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder’s screenplay gives us the flavor of Winnie the Pooh, making him frustrating in the adult world but still wonderfully wise–asking for our patience and bringing a bit of delightful magic in the adult world. If you have any doubt about Pooh and his gang’s popularity, the Disney Store online is already sold out of the medium-sized Christopher Robin plushies
Winnie the Pooh was one of my favorite childhood books and I still have a thread bare bear–my second teddy bear. I fear no one will ever love him as much as I did and still do. If you once loved Winnie the Pooh or have kids who have yet to reach the age of cynicism, this movie is for you: an adult fable for Winnie the Pooh fans and a reminder that in the adult world heffalumps and woozles can threaten our beloved family, friends and dreams.