...when fantasy meets reality,
real magic isn’t too far from our grasp
It will be hard to find another film like Christopher Robin these days. Its story avoids the frenzied energy of modern kid’s films and replaces it with a paw-full of honey, substituting common day spectacle with the simple soul-warming softness of retro-family-films from our past.
In an age dominated by Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar, Christopher Robin is a delightful throwback film that calls on movies like HOOK (1991), Jumanji (1995), and Big Fish (2003) (So close to hitting the Robin Williams trifecta) for inspiration. Its whimsy is refreshing and much like the movies above, when fantasy unapologetically intermingles with reality, real magic isn’t too far from our grasp and we, for a moment, can imagine our lives mirroring that which is on screen. It’s an adventure that parents owe to their children to experience and explore the possibilities of their own imagination; a quest parents should embark on together with them as well.
And, one of the things this film does to aid us in believing in this magic comes from the impressive wizardry rendered by the incredible special effects team that worked on the Hundred Acre Wood inhabitants. These beloved characters all look fantastic. They are as if these storybook stuffed animals have truly jumped off the page and come to life. Their fur, stitching, clothes and expressions, to the way they walk and talk and interact with the world around them are just phenomenal.
...these characters look so real
you can almost reach out and touch them, and in true storybook fashion, this film gives our imagination the ability to make that happen.
For all intents and purposes, this is like a dream come true, for every person who dreamed of having Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and the other Hundred Acre Wood creatures, all seemingly existing in our world, these characters look so real, you can almost reach out and touch them, and in true storybook fashion, it allows our imagination to make that happen.
Disney continues to outdo itself in this department. This is the best special effects work I have seen in any of the Disney live action films that have been released to date, with Jon Favreau’s Jungle Book coming in at a distant second.
But, this movie is called Christopher Robin and not Winnie the Pooh for a reason, and credit must be given to the legendary Ewan McGregor who is basically putting on a one man show acting alongside these CGI characters. When he looks, speaks, or interacts with one of these characters, it’s like they’re really there. It’s a skill that not every actor has, but McGregor pulls it off with such sincerity that his performance perpetuates the spell this film’s loving charm has placed us under.
McGregor also serves as this film’s antagonist, of sorts. Though it lacks a traditional villain, McGregor’s portrayal of the all grown up Christopher Robin as the rigid totalitarian is the closest thing to a “bad-guy” that we get in the entire film. The disenchanted Robin is such a self-involved workaholic in the real world, that his Hundred Acre Wood friends confuse him for an evil Heffalump, a scary elephant like creature that preys on their joy. This creates some of the darker moments of this largely lighthearted film, but they’re neither too dark nor too scary that parents should worry about it scaring your little ones. In fact, those scenes are the most engaging of the film, and it helped my daughter understand a crucial change in Christopher Robin, using terms and visual cues she could understand. This surreal moment also colors the rest of the film in a new more vibrant hue, and infuses the action with a clearer sense of urgency for our characters.
Though McGregor and the Hundred Acre Wood characters basically own the show, Hayley Atwell as Christopher Robin’s wife, Bronte Carmichael as his daughter, and Mark Gatiss as his superior are all welcome additions to the cast and put in fine work alongside McGregor. Atwell especially, as Robin’s disheartened wife who shines whenever she is on camera, powerfully echoing everyone’s concerns regarding vocation and the constraints it can place one’s home life.
Its a distinctly immersive experience
that is mature in its execution but beautiful enough that a child can still enjoy the endless possibilities its trees, streams, and caves have to offer.
This film is also very beautifully shot, paying careful attention to its surroundings and it sets up some truly breathtaking moments in the sprawling fields of the Hundred Acre Wood. It also masterfully utilizes atmosphere, allowing scenes to breathe as elegantly as the wind rushing through rustling leaves and tall grass. Its a distinctly immersive experience that is mature in its execution but beautiful enough that a child can still enjoy the endless possibilities its trees, streams, and caves have to offer.
In the end, Christopher Robin addresses the seemingly bleak consequences of an over-worked parent and its effects on family care while wonderfully pouring the syrupy sweetness of A.A. Milne’s brilliant insight on friendship, fantasy and love on our hearts. If you're a fan of the retro, family friendly, lighthearted adventures like HOOK or Paddington of more recent date, then you will enjoy this film. To put it plainly, this adventure is as enjoyably gentle as the lovable bear that inspired it, and its charm is meant to be enjoyed by both children and parents alike.