Disney’s “Christopher Robin” is a live action interpretation of a classic story that I approve of. Like “Maleficent,” it’s a film that is based on new, original material with familiar and beloved classic characters of the Disney machine-unlike recent reinventions of “Beauty & The Beast” and “Aladdin.” Those films are just the same with minor tweaks that don’t generate enough hype or interest for me. (No—I will not be seeing “The Lion King.” I already saw it back in 1992.)
Marc Forster (“Quantum Of Solace” and “Finding Neverland”) directs while never losing sight of the fact that Winnie The Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, etc all stem from classic children’s literature by A.A. Milne. The film opens with a backstory on the title character starting with his playful adolescent connection to Pooh & Friends, followed by his departure from them into a strict boarding school and then into adulthood (played sweetly by Ewan MacGregor). Christopher falls in love with Evelyn (Hayley Atwood) and before their child is born he is sent off to war only to return as a no nonsense efficiency manager for a luggage company. He has forgotten his friends who live and do nothing (which always leads to something) in 100 Acre Woods. Worse, Christopher never laughs nor hardly acknowledges his daughter Madeline. He is not a child anymore.
This is the film that Steven Spielberg probably wanted when he directed Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman in 1991’s “Hook.” It just came off too clunky and messy at the time.
As the story continues, Forster is not so covert in his symbolism of Christopher Robin shedding his crotchety adult persona and returning to his childhood whimsy. Christopher crawls through the hole in the tree, muddies his suit, loses his briefcase and disregards his paperwork.
I found myself rooting for Christopher’s new found happiness and his revived love for his wife and daughter. I loved the stuffed animal interpretations of the Pooh characters (with voice work from Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett and Toby Jones). Yet, the tears at the sweetness of it all never arrived. As quick as the film began, it was never a challenge to realize how it would all turn out.
So no surprises to be had in “Christopher Robin,” but an original story to appreciate nonetheless. That’s good enough for me.