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October 1, 2018 | by  | in Film |
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Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin’s most memorable quote, delivered by a sweetly melancholic Winnie the Pooh, popped to mind as I left the cinema: “I would have liked it to go on for a little while longer.”

The premise of Christopher Robin, Disney’s live-action movie featuring Pooh and the other denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood, is simple. Christopher Robin, played by Ewan McGregor, has left Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood behind; first to boarding school, then to the Second World War, and finally to a struggling luggage company in London. Along the way he has built a family and become a workaholic. Robin is very much an adult now, and not a fun one. Pooh must step in to save Robin from himself.
It is a straightforward premise, and Christopher Robin’s plot does not get any more sophisticated as it goes along. The inflection points — the obnoxious Woozel-like boss instructing Robin to miss a family holiday to focus on an imminent deadline, Pooh’s unintentional reemergence into Robin’s life, the rush to get Pooh home, and Robin’s gradual realisation of his misplaced priorities — are entirely foreseeable.
But Christopher Robin never hangs its hat on its plot. The true delight of the film is in the innocently playful, sometimes melancholic, and always nostalgic interactions between Robin and Pooh. For instance, in Pooh’s game of “Say What You See”, which deeply frustrates Robin in his attempt to get work done on the train and is bound to be copied by mischievous younger viewers. Or when Pooh leads Robin back into the Hundred Acre Woods only for Robin to get stuck in the magical doorframe — a subversion of Pooh’s classic habit in previous literary and cinematic appearances of getting stuck, whether in Rabbit’s doorway or in the entrance to a beehive.
These interactions are sure to make audiences chuckle; both those in the know about Pooh’s past adventures, and those who aren’t. Similarly delightful is watching Robin interact with a world he thought he had left behind for good — holding his nose and diving into a river that is now only up to his adult shins, or fighting an imaginary Heffalump to convince his plushy friends of his credentials. Eeyore, the depressed donkey, plunged the audience into hysterics over his morose and self-loathing commentary — but even he couldn’t help but smile as he saw adult Robin regain some of his childish wonder.
Most surprising is the film’s extraordinary effectiveness in delivering a message which has been delivered a thousand times before — a carpe diem-esque plea to stop, smell the roses, and have fun just doing nothing. Jim Cummings, who has voiced Pooh since 1988, perfectly conveys Pooh’s innocent naïvete — making his platitudinal wisdoms deeply and unexpectedly compelling.
The main target of those platitudes, Robin, is perfectly played by McGregor. He is convincing in his physical comedy, charming in his alternating exasperation and excitement at Pooh’s reemergence, and distressingly effective in his wistful interactions with his frustrated wife and disappointed daughter.
Christopher Robin certainly has its shortcomings. It is gratuitous and ineffective in its use of overdone plot points, such as the tragedy which befalls young Robin at boarding school, which which the film never touches on again. It also makes little use of Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael, who play Robin’s wife and daughter respectively, never developing their characters into anything more than cookie-cutter cliches.
Yet the movie is shockingly, surprisingly, and satisfyingly moving. Robin and Pooh’s interplay, shown through beautiful cinematography that makes regular use of perfectly framed landscape shots of the Hundred Acre Woods, makes the journey toward the film’s inevitable conclusion deeply enjoyable.
Christopher Robin is not a sophisticated film. Yet it still manages to evoke emotional reactions of all kinds — from euphoric nostalgia to tearful reflection. For that experience alone, it is worth watching.

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