Review: ‘Christopher Robin,’ sweet but slow tale

This image released by Disney shows Ewan McGregor in a scene from "Christopher Robin." (AP)
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Parents need to know that “Christopher Robin” stars Ewan McGregor as an overworked, grown-up version of the main character from A.A. Milne’s classic books. He’s all but forgotten his animal pals, until one day Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) ends up in London, and a new adventure begins. This heartwarming, family-friendly story serves as a sequel to the beloved Winnie-the-Pooh tales that have entertained generations. It’s about as clean and sweet as movies get these days, but there are brief, early scenes of Christopher Robin mourning his father’s death and fighting in WWII (guns and an explosion are seen, and wounds are implied). He also has a scary dream while knocked out after a fall, and there are a few tense sequences related to the animals’ fear of heffalumps and woozles. Expect lots of physical comedy involving the animals tripping and falling and wreaking minor havoc. There’s a strong theme of being grateful for your life/those you love, as well as the importance of compassion, teamwork, play, friendship, imagination, and parent-child relationships.


“Christopher Robin” is a live-action sequel to A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh stories, following a grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor), who hasn’t thought about his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood in decades. But then Winnie (voiced by Jim Cummings) mysteriously shows up asking for help finding Tigger (Cummings), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), Roo (Sara Sheen), Owl (Toby Jones), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), and Eeyore (Brad Garrett) — all of whom seem to have disappeared from the woods. Christopher, it’s clear, hasn’t been very playful in ages. He’s too busy trying to save the luggage company he manages to spend time with his wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), and their young daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). But when Pooh turns up, Christopher Robin realizes that he must return him to the Hundred Acre Wood and somehow make it back to London in time for an important meeting. The reunion between adult Christopher Robin and his childhood pals is life-changing, as well as humorously chaotic.


Like Pooh himself, this family dramedy is cozy, cuddly, and sweet, if not particularly nuanced or brisk. Entertaining voice performances bolster the live-action cast’s take on the grown-up Christopher Robin, who’s too tightly wound in his adult responsibilities to see that his wife and daughter are desperate for his laughter and presence. The plot takes a while to kick into gear, but once it does, audiences will surely enjoy the parts featuring Pooh and the rest of the gang, who are all each as we remember them from the books/movies. Earnest and kind, Pooh might call himself “a bear of very little brain,” but viewers know that what counts isn’t his smarts but his tremendous heart, which is full of love, joy, curiosity, and compassion. And director Marc Forster emphasizes the idea that not a lot has to happen for you to feel something, deeply, in a character-driven movie. The movie is fairly simple, and that seems to be the point (though you’ll be forgiven if you catch yourself wondering exactly when the story is going to really kick in).

There’s a lesson for all overworked moviegoers as Christopher returns to his childhood play space and rediscovers his close friends, who’ve missed him for decades. (Though if it takes a fuzzy bear to make you realize that stressing about work without a break will negatively impact your personal/family life, you really need some paid time off.) For a movie set in England shortly after World War II, Christopher Robin is notably diverse, without comment; it’s gratifying — and important — to see supporting characters played by people of color, even if at that time it’s unlikely there would have been such an integrated work force. Cummings, Okonedo, Capaldi, and the rest of the voice actors are all in sync with their characters; Garrett is particularly well cast as the grumpy Eeyore. But ultimately the movie belongs to McGregor and Cummings, who, as Christopher Robin and Pooh, form the bonded duo of boy and bear that fans will be eager to see back together again.


Recommended for ages 8 and older
Quality: 3 out of 5
Educational value: 2 out of 5
Positive messages: 4 out of 5
Positive role models: 4 out of 5
Violence and scariness: 2 out of 5
Sexy stuff: 1 out of 5
Language: 1 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 0 out of 5
Consumerism: 1 out of 5
In theaters: August 3, 2018
Director: Marc Forster
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Genre: Family and Kids
Run time: 104 minutes
MPAA rating: PG