Director: Marc Forster
Screenwriters: Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy and Allison Schroeder
Story by: Greg Brooker and Mark Steven Johnson
Based on characters by: A.A. Milne and Ernest Shepard
Runtime: 104 mins.
Australian release date: 13 September 2018
Previewed at: Event Cinemas, George Street, Sydney, on 16 August 2018.
“It’s always a sunny day when Christopher Robin comes to play” - Pooh Bear
Those of us who grew up reading, or having read to us, the wonderful adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends, are in for an absolute treat. Coming hard on the heels of Simon Curtis’s Goodbye Christopher Robin, which told the story of the relationship of the author A.A. Milne with his son, comes Marc Forster’s Christopher Robin. Time has moved on a few years and Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) is now all grown up and living in London with his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). He’s at a moment in his life when things are very difficult in his job as a number cruncher at Winslow Luggages and his family life is being compromised because of the volume of work he’s facing. Things come to a head when he has to cancel going on a long-promised weekend away in Sussex with Evelyn and Madeline and they leave without him. As Pooh would say, “What to do, what to do?” While sitting in the enclosed park opposite his house, fraught with worry, he is suddenly visited by his old friend, who emerges from the base of a nearby tree. When asked how, the bear explains that the tree must be “where it’s supposed to be.” Christopher decides he must take Pooh back to the Hundred Acre Wood and his friends Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo and Owl, which also happens to be near the old family home where the family are holidaying without him. After a pretty frenetic journey and many exciting adventures, including a fight with a Heffalump, everything turns out okay - no spoilers here, let’s face it this is a kids’ story.
Set in various locations in England, including Windsor Great Park, Berkshire, East Sussex and London, Christopher Robin is an absolute gem on many levels. The story is beautifully portrayed as Pooh and his friends come to life as a motley, slightly well-worn group who live on in the wood, looking out for each other and missing Christopher, especially Pooh. The skill in developing the furry characters on screen, to the point where you can readily accept that they are real, is quite extraordinary. There are a number of scenes that have the ‘aaaw’ factor and one of the most endearing is when Pooh and Christopher are taking the train back to Sussex in their own compartment; Christopher is trying to catch up with work and Pooh (like any kid) is looking out the window. When Christopher asks him to amuse himself, he starts naming everything he sees as they roar through the countryside: “house, tree, clouds, dog…”
McGregor is thoroughly believable as the boy who is all grown up and not too fazed at being re-united with his past. Pooh is wonderfully vocalised by the seasoned voice actor Jim Cummings. His voice is mature but his words are the ideas of a child; it’s a delightful combination. The other ‘furries’ are all well voiced, too, and suit their characters, although Eeyore sounds a tad North American. The animation works beautifully because the characters are, indeed, stuffed animals, as against drawn or computer-generated ones. One of the reasons Pooh is so effective is because his face remains almost expressionless, with just his mouth moving slightly. This allows viewers to imagine the teddy bear’s expressions for themselves, based on the emotion the screenplay’s conveying.
If you get the opportunity to attend a screening with children, then do so, as it will be a rewarding experience. Yes, there’s a ‘message’, but it’s a positive one about the importance of spending time with one’s family and it’s not rammed down your throat - not overly Disney-fied. You can enter a world that, for many of us, only existed in our imaginations but now Marc Forster’s Christopher Robin lets you see it for ‘real’.