Years after departing the Hundred Acre Wood, Christopher Robin is a father with a job at a suitcase company, which often keeps him away from his family. Meanwhile, Winnie the Pooh has lost his friends and needs his old friend’s help to get them back.
On the surface, both visually and with the basic plot, this film appears fairly solid; however, it doesn’t take much to start picking it apart. The film’s plot is inspired by Mary Poppins – a father that needs to work on his work-life balance – but this film doesn’t explore that idea nearly as well. Given that it is in fairly well-worn territory, it ought to bring something new to the table; but all it does is attempt to emulate films such as Hook or Saving Mr Banks (both of which were charming with their nostalgia), a task in which it ultimately fails.
Pooh (Jim Cummings) and friends coming back into the adult Christopher Robin’s life (Ewan McGregor) is meant to serve as a reminder that family and friends are important, yet the supporting cast – Christopher’s family and work colleagues – are little more than window dressing. Hayley Atwell tries very hard to create a character for Evelyn with what little she’s given, but even the best actors can’t make something from nothing. Much of the supporting animated cast suffers from this as well, with little-to-no screen time given to any except for Pooh. The CG animation is good, managing to stay true to the illustrations whilst blending the characters with the background convincingly – an impressive feat, given that they exist both in the ethereal Hundred Acre Wood as well as mid-twentieth century London.
Ewan McGregor does his best – in the wrong hands, Christopher could have been particularly unlikeable, but McGregor steers clear of this; however, many of the issues with his family could have been solved by simply talking to his wife and daughter about the problems he had at work, and listening to their concerns about not seeing him. The film does not address this, instead implying that the issue was that he spent too much time at work – skating over the fact that he only did so in an effort to avoid having to cut staff members.
Tonally, the film shifts gears several times, making it hard to know what it was aiming for. Much of the film is surprisingly melancholy – which might have worked had they juxtaposed this sadness with lightness in the form of Pooh and friends, however many of the interactions with Pooh in particular are just as bleak. The few moments of levity offered then feel somewhat shoehorned in, juxtaposing what has gone before it.
Overall, it has nice visuals and good performances, but is let down by a less-than-stellar script and story. It also suffers from the bizarre implication that Pooh and pals are actually real, meaning that Christopher abandoned real creatures and forgot they existed for twenty years.
Two hunny pots out of five.
Image Credit: Movie DB.