There is not a lot of mystery over what the new film "Christopher Robin" wants to leave with its audience as they exit the theater. But, what does seem mysterious is who that …
There is not a lot of mystery over what the new film "Christopher Robin" wants to leave with its audience as they exit the theater. But, what does seem mysterious is who that audience is believed to be.
The film, which offers a melancholy rumination on how a grown man comes to grips with the lively characters of his childhood imagination made real, tries very hard to match the bubbly tone of the animated Disney movies with which many of us adults grew up. But, it also tries very hard to draw in a much younger audience it hopes will be enthralled by the quirky antics of Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet and the rest of the sweet inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood.
Unfortunately, director Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland") envisions all of this in perpetually cloudy hard-edged postwar Great Britain, a time when the nation's economy was struggling to recover and damaged men who returned from the war held onto whatever jobs they found with upright British fervor. It also veers nervously away from what really happened to "Winnie-The-Pooh author A.A. Milne and his own son, as detailed in last year's "Goodbye, Christopher Robin." Rather than go down that distressing path, Forster concocts the character of Christopher Robin as the child from the Milne stories who simply grows up, goes away to boarding school, falls in love, gets married and is about to become a father when World War II breaks out, and he enlists to do his bit for God and country.
As embodied by the always earnest Ewan McGregor, Christopher, the man, does what any British citizen must do at that time. He meets the world clear-eyed and forward-thinking as a dedicated worker. But, with such dedication, the sweetness that imbued romance with his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) has tarnished, and as a father to his daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), his role has become distant.
Amid all this, Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet and the rest of the sweet inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood, have continued to exist independently of Christopher Robin. And, in probably the strangest artistic decision of the film, they are depicted as realistic-looking (digitally animated) plush playthings.
This tangible aspect works in some ways -- they look cute enough to actually hug -- but their cartoonish antics sometimes come off as strange and a little uncomfortable. It's as if they are odd children in fuzzy costumes who demand the attention of the children-now adults with whom they grew up.
One weekend, Christopher decides to take his little family away from the hustle and bustle of London back to his childhood home. This is to try to regain the sweetness he seems to be losing from them. But, a last-minute demand from the office causes him to stay behind.
Dejected, Evelyn and Madeline decide to go anyway. In the meantime, Pooh, being Pooh, somehow finds a portal from the Hundred Acre Wood through a tree trunk and winds up in the little park across the street from Christopher's home.
Thus begins a heartwarming tale worthy of the Milne books, but tinged with a bit of woe for what all adults lose when they get older. As Pooh says, "Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something."
The talented voice cast includes Brad Garrett, Peter Capaldi, Jim Cummings, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Mohammed and Sara Sheen.
"Christopher Robin" is rated PG for some action.
It is showing daily at Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
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