In this return to the Hundred Acre Wood, Disney do what they do best. Christopher Robin is proper old-fashioned filmmaking. Money is well spent on a perfectly cast Ewan McGregor and on bringing ‘40s London to life. The bustling, steamy station scenes and aerial-shot rail journeys wouldn’t look out of place in Harry Potter – high praise indeed.
Hand-drawn opening credits pay touching tribute to A. A. Milne’s books, while merging these with live action makes for an efficient and creative way of recapping Christopher Robin’s childhood.
The premise of a grown up Robin reuniting with his furry friends promises something for everyone. Director Marc Forster has some serious pedigree – 2004’s Finding Neverland – for creating family appeal without lapsing into tweeness, and he repeats the formula here. There’s enough plot to keep adults engaged, though young children may tire of the animal-less section following the prologue.
Christopher Robin really takes off with the reappearance of Pooh and friends. The wonderfully expressive and tactile puppets bring a joyful pop of colour to the film’s drab workaday vision of London. All the characters’ familiar traits are well-realised – particularly Pooh’s nonsense wittering, which frequently smuggles in profound aphorisms.
Christopher Robin feels more firmly rooted in reality than the fellow bear-on-the-big-screen Paddington movies, and its humour is less slapstick. The set pieces are a little lacking in energy, but there are plenty of hearty chuckles to be had.
It’s an adorable, gentle watch with some welcome contemporary critique just beneath the nostalgic veneer – perhaps the influence of writer Alex Ross Perry, the cynical mind behind Queen of Earth and Listen Up Philip, a very surprising credit on a Disney movie.
Christopher Robin is a lightweight delight offering a delectable world to savour. With a little more oomph it could have been one for the ages.
CAST: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss
DIRECTOR: Marc Forster
WRITERS: Alex Ross Perry (screenplay by), Allison Schroeder (screenplay by), Alex Ross Perry (story by), A.A. Milne (based on characters created by), E.H. Shepard (based on characters created by)
SYNOPSIS: A working-class family man, Christopher Robin, encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh, who helps him to rediscover the joys of life.