Movie Review - Christopher Robin

Disney has a long history of combining live-action filmmaking with animation. The prime example is Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). This film follows in that tradition, but the animation here looks very life-like, almost as if it were stop-motion work. It looks as if the animators took plush toys or stuffed animals and used stop-motion to bring them to life along side the real human-actors here. However, reportedly the animation is all CGI, although the actors were probably given actual plush toys to touch occasionally, but if the animation is pure CGI, it has to be commended for how tactile the little characters are rendered on screen. It looks a lot more real than Roger Rabbit, but make no mistake it does look like plush toys that can move.
 
It's not like the cartoon characters here are given the kind of verisimilitude of the characters in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011). Director Marc Forster (Stranger Than Fiction and Finding Neverland) and his team don't seem to want that kind of verisimilitude. Forster wants a level of child-like fantasy to it rather than the hyper reality of that 2011 film. If anything, this movie is more akin to another film that came out in 2011, that of The Muppets (2011), writer-actor Jason Segel's take on the popular characters by Jim Henson. Segel's film used puppets and puppeteers, not CGI, but the look of Segel's film is similar to the look here. Some might compare the look here to Paul King's Paddington (2015), but Paddington is a character rendered more like Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, not like the Muppets.

Ewan McGregor (Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace and Moulin Rouge!) plays the titular character of Christopher Robin, the character created by AA Milne in Winnie-the-Pooh. The film even opens with the writings of Milne and the drawings of his illustrator, Ernest Shepard. In Milne's stories, Christopher Robin was a little boy who would visit a special forest called the Hundred Acre Wood where he would have adventures with a group of talking animals, led mainly by a talking bear in a red shirt that loved honey named Winnie the Pooh. However, this movie takes the same premise as Steven Spielberg's Hook (1991) where it imagines what if that character left that magical place, went to London, grew up and had a family, a wife and child, as well as got a boring job at a luggage company.

Like Hook, the ultimate goal is for the adult Christopher Robin to realize his inner child is important, playing with his own child is important and dedication to work in expense of spending time with his family isn't what he should be doing. Obviously, he needs to work as an adult in order to support himself and his loved ones, but there should be a balance of work and play. Spending time with your child, either inner or outer child, is another strong message too. Christopher Robin contemplates sending his daughter Madeline, played by Bronte Carmichael, to boarding school because he went to boarding school and because he believes it's best for her education. The intricacies and nuances of what he experienced as opposed to what his daughter would experience aren't foremost on the mind of the filmmakers here. The boarding school issue simply stands as a crutch for the distance that currently exists between Christopher Robin and his daughter to overcome.

By the end, the debate of work versus play leads to this film becoming one of the best argumentations for paid holidays from employers. How it's argued in this movie might be a bit of a spoiler, but it might not be that difficult to reason if one considers how it might be beneficial in an economic stimulus way. However, debates about paid holidays or employers finding creative ways to keep their employees aren't the main thrust of this film. The main thrust is watching the animated animals wreak havoc on Christopher Robin's life in order to remind him the need for play and family. In that, this movie could have done more, more to flesh out those talking animals as it were.

There are some pratfalls to be enjoyed from Winnie the Pooh and his various animal friends. The one-liners from the various animals, especially from Eeyore, voiced by Brad Garrett, are by far the funniest. The pratfalls aren't as enjoyable as in something like Paddington, but the one-liners are more laugh-out-loud. It's a bit of a trifle, but one that mainly would appeal to kids. I still prefer Hook.

Rated PG for action.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 mins.

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