Christopher Robin is like a goodbye hug to someone you love. It’s a little bit sad, for sure, but it’s still really sweet too, and it gives you the warm fuzzies when you think about everything that makes the goodbye so hard.
This isn’t just a random analogy either, Christopher Robin the film is all about hard goodbyes, but it’s ultimately about reconnecting too, and in that way, even the most jaded individual may have a hard time not feeling emotional at this amazing movie.
By now the sadists at Disney have certainly cracked the code for emotional investment, and Christopher Robin may be one of their best examples of it. The movie is about an older Christopher Robin who has lost his way in life, who’s forgotten all the things that made his own storybook childhood so wonderful. When fate brings him back to his old friend Pooh, he struggles to reconcile the carefree and fun person Pooh remembers him as, with the stressed and strict adult he’s become.
If it’s not clear, this “children’s” film is targeted at a certain audience, and it is not children. This one is for the OG fans, the young adults and their parents who’ve grown up on the stories of Christopher Robin and the Hundred Acre Woods. This is a reward for our patience! After years of moving on to other interests, finding more mature hobbies and stories to enjoy, and growing up, it’s a powerful shot of nostalgia to be reunited with the silly old bear and his friends from our childhood.
The connection between the character of Christopher Robin and the audience is obvious, and the film does a lot to play with this idea in thoughtful ways. It is definitely a product of dedication, on the part of the filmmakers and the audience, and the full effect is only going to be achieved by being a Winnie the Pooh fan. Fair warning to anyone wanting to see this movie with just a passing idea of who these characters are, you are probably not going to enjoy this movie to the full extent. Sorry, not gatekeeping, just a fact.
On the technical side, Christopher Robin is astounding. Much was said when the first trailers dropped about the look of the animals. That their ‘realistic’ appearances were more unsettling than cute, however, this is definitely not a problem once you actually start watching. The toy look of them feels incredibly natural, and of course, the CG wizards at ILM do a great job of making them look real when they walk and talk. You could really believe that they’re part of the world.
Ewan McGregor’s performance certainly helps in this regard, how he managed to essentially do a one-man show to a stuffed toy for half the movie and make it feel completely real is a testament to his skill. The cinematography is beautiful, with the opening scene in particular being the standout (the visuals alone were enough to make one reviewer cry), and the sound design and music fit well. On the topic of sound, the voice performances from the animals were spot on perfect.
Jim Cummings dropping Pooh’s philosophical nuggets of wisdom, and always asking for hunny, makes it feel like he never left at all. It’s doubtful that A.A. Milne quite realised how well Eeyore’s humour would eventually translate to modern audiences. We think he will become the fan favourite for his scenes in Christopher Robin, for the 20 somethings especially. Several times we couldn’t help but say “mood,” to Eeyore’s one-liners.
The film wastes absolutely no time bringing fans back into the world they’ve missed, making the world feel just like the one from the old stories, but, in a realistic context. It feels instantly familiar, and once Disney’s caught you in the fly trap of nostalgia… bam! They mix you up good by reminding you of the real world outside the idyllic Woods, the reality that people can’t be children forever, ooh but we don’t wanna give too much away…
So, if your mind still isn’t made up, let us emphatically state, please go see Christopher Robin. It is a beautiful movie that unashamedly goes for the emotional gut punch several times, but it’s still Winnie the Pooh, so you can always expect a smile and a laugh to follow shortly after a tear. If you’re not a fan of Pooh, you can probably give this one a miss, but if your parents ever read him to you, or you ever saw the cartoons, or perhaps you’re introducing your own kids to them now, you won’t regret watching Christopher Robin.
Christopher Robin opens in Australian cinemas this Thursday