Earlier this year, audiences got Simon Curtis’ Goodbye Christopher Robin, a handsomely made but sapless origin story about the Winnie the Pooh author. Now, as is increasingly the case with the bizarre Hollywood trend of twin releases, we get this year’s second A. A. Milne project from a concurrent studio. Disney’s adventurously-titled Christopher Robin is a live-action reimagining of the ursine’s adventures, featuring Ewan McGregor as Pooh’s grown-up owner. He’s become a stuffy dullard who has lost his imagination, as well as his marital and paternal fibre. Luckily for him, the animals of the Hundred Acre Wood are here to bring him back in touch with his younger self.
The central conceit is pretty much identical to Steven Spielberg’s Hook – which, bafflingly, is one of The Beard’s most-derided creations – and feels like something of a companion piece to director Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland. Like this previous effort, Christopher Robin is a period film that mixes whimsey with melodrama, but this time to a far less grating effect. It’s charming and beautifully shot, infused with a palpable sense of melancholy that is seen and felt primarily through the grey colour palette and the canny decision to make the stuffed animals look like they’ve also felt some of the ravages of time. This ensures many overly-twee pitfalls are dodged and that all age groups can get a look-in. The animals and the excellent voice work should delight the younger viewers – if they don’t mind their tear ducts getting punished along the way – and older audience members can enjoy a well-written story about the loss of childhood wonder. And in case you’re not convinced, go see it just for the mild thrill of seeing a film the Chinese government has banned because their president doesn’t like being physically compared to the affable, honey-obsessed bear. They seriously labelled the cuddly Pooh a “symbol of political dissent”. Eeyore wept.
Christopher Robin | Directed by Marc Foster (UK, 2018), with Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Jim Cummings, Toby Jones. Starts August 16.
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