Less than a year after the period drama Goodbye Christopher Robin, we say hello again with Christopher Robin, a much different attempt at spinning the mythology of A.A. Milne’s beloved children’s characters in a new direction.
The latest nostalgic trip back to the Hundred Acre Wood is an intermittently charming live-action adventure about lifelong friendships, childhood innocence, and the power of imagination that ultimately seems silly and inconsequential even by these modest standards.
The bulk of the film finds Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) working as an efficiency expert tasked with slashing expenses at a high-stress London company. He doesn’t spend enough time with his wife (Hayley Atwell) and young daughter, and certainly has forgotten about his childhood adventures with his stuffed animals, led by a bumbling bear known as Winnie the Pooh.
That changes when a wayward Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) seeks out Christopher Robin one day in the park, desperately searching for his missing friends. After some zany mishaps, Christopher Robin reluctantly helps out, eventually realizing that his priorities need to be reset.
As directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), the film demonstrates a genuine warmth and affection for the characters, even if it loses momentum whenever Pooh and his friends aren’t on the screen.
The leisurely paced screenplay overdoses on cuteness and sentimentality as it aims for more of a Paddington vibe with its fish-out-of-water concept that briefly brings Pooh into the real world. Such an idea feels more strained than amusing, especially given the film’s reliance on broad slapstick more likely to produce smiles among moviegoers rather than outright laughs.
The voice cast from the last few Pooh cinematic outings returns here, including Brad Garrett as Eeyore the donkey, Peter Capaldi as Rabbit, and Toby Jones as Owl. It’s unfortunate that none of them, other than an extended sequence involving the perpetually dour Eeyore, gets much screen time.
Still, there’s a timeless quality to the setting and the characters that still resonates across generations. It’s impossible to resist Pooh’s wise yet offbeat philosophical quips, such as when he advises a younger Christopher Robin: “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”
To its detriment, perhaps the same could be said of the film, which betrays the source material by trying too hard to make Pooh and friends into something, when changing nothing might have produced a more satisfying result.