A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh stories captivated me as a child and they are still wonderful stories through young adult eyes. The stories epitomise childhood innocence, the atmosphere is enough to enchant everybody regardless of gender and age and the characters are some of the most charming in children's literature (Disney's treatment of them as some of their most famous ever creations is every bit as special).
Wanted to see 'Christopher Robin' from the very start, being as big a fan as all things Winnie the Pooh. Despite giving away too much of the film for my liking, the trailer did look good and the charm and childhood innocence did shine through even with the obvious melancholic tone that comes with growing up and forgetting. Ewan McGregor has big talent as an actor, the idea was such a great one and Winnie the Pooh is just such a great character that is impossible to dislike. Also wanted to see where abouts in the mixed to positive critical reception it would land in, though a few negative reviews, from reviewers usually trusted by me, put me off a little.
Am so glad about following my gut instinct and watching the film. 'Christopher Robin' has its faults, and is not as good as the 60s-70s short films, 'The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh', the series 'The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh' and a few of the films that came after, but is really lovely in its own way with plenty for children and adults like.
'Christopher Robin' is not perfect as has been said. It does drag and loses its warmth and charm with the family and workplace scenes of the first half, which came over as over-sentimental and dreary, with few surprises having been done numerous times in the same way. A shame when the opening scene was so charming and sweet, and relatable for any child growing up. Anybody expecting a lot of depth shouldn't really, only Pooh and Christopher Robin, done beautifully on both counts, grow here really.
Mark Gatiss does overdo his weasel-like (or should we say woozle-like) character for my liking, an unsubtle stereotype and played with even less subtlety that it gets annoying. Would have liked more of some of the Hundred Acre Wood characters, half underused especially Owl and Kanga.
Had no problem with most of the voice work, but always did find Peter Capaldi to be an odd choice for Rabbit (under-characterised here) and still do, basically it's Doctor Who with a London-ish accent and it doesn't fit Rabbit.
However, the opening scene is full of the childhood innocence, warmth and charm one expects from Winnie the Pooh and those qualities do pick up once Pooh re-appears and even more so when the other Hundred Acre Wood characters are re-introduced. Much of 'Christopher Robin' is full of nostalgia and there are some lovely gently humorous touches, especially with Tigger and even more so Eeyore who has some of the best lines. There is a melancholy and wistfulness that is both appealing and moving, Pooh does bring tears to the eyes and his interplay, one of the film's biggest strengths, with Christopher is sweet and humorous.
Present also are nice glimpses of the original drawings and the nostalgia is created mainly by the numerous references to the stories and the previous Winnie the Pooh incarnations (the exchange between Christopher and Pooh concluding the opening scene, getting lost, Heffalumps and Woozles, the balloon, a couple of the songs from the 1960s-1970s short films to name a few). The Hundred Acre Wood characters are not far off from their original personalities, particularly Eeyore and Tigger, the only reservation being Rabbit and perhaps Piglet could have been a little more timid.
Throughout 'Christopher Robin' looks lovely, with handsome period detail, photography that is a mix of purposefully grim to idyllic and a beautifully rendered and quite faithful Hundred Acre Wood. The effects for Pooh and co. are delightful and looks great, maybe not quite how Disney portrayed them visually but not far off from the original drawings of the stories, of which the spirit is captured beautifully once in the Hundred Acre Wood, and their conditions of being forgotten for so long obvious in a realistic fashion. The eyes are not quite expressive, though not creepy, but the characterisations and how they interact and move are certainly expressive. The music is whimsical and melancholic, while the story falters with the family and workplace scenes early on but is charming, warm-hearted and poignant everywhere else. The script is thoughtful and affectionate and Marc Forster, perfect for the job and bringing the same qualities he did for 'Finding Neverland', directs sympathetically.
Ewan McGregor does a great job here, a hard role to balance quite a number of emotions and reacting against nothing for much of the film but it is a nuanced performance, stern and uptight at first but mellows into childlike wonder. Basically it is a great portrayal of forgetting fond memories and finding them again, learning things along the way, with a few nice life lessons, that allows the character to grow, apparent in the heart-warming ending. Hayley Atwell is a rootable presence and Bronte Carmichael is a star in the making. Making more of an impression is the voice acting. Brad Garrett is a standout as Eeyore, sadness at its funniest. Nick Mohammed doesn't quite match the giant shoes left by John Fiedler, having voiced Piglet from the very beginning until his death in 2005, but the sweetness and timidity is captured nicely. Best of all is Jim Cummings, he's been voicing Pooh and Tigger since the late 80s and the experience shows. He has not lost Tigger's humour and liveliness but it's as Pooh where he is particularly wonderful, having not moved me to tears this much until now.
Overall, very nicely done and definitely well worth watching once it gets going. 8/10 Bethany Cox