Show of hands: After reading or watching Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne’s classic children’s tale, did you ever wonder what happened to Christopher Robin after he grew up and left behind his animal friends in the Hundred Acre Wood? Well, if you did, Christopher Robin — the newest Disney live-action remake/sequel/cash grab — will have all the answers you’d like and then some. Turns out, Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) went to war, got married, had a child and settled into an unfulfilling job at a luggage company. He also, unfortunately, became a bit of a workaholic pill. His wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (played by the wonderfully named Bronte Carmichael) hardly ever see him — and when they do, they have little patience for his well-worn excuses for missing yet another family vacation. Clearly, Christopher Robin needs someone to shake some sense into him. This is where Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings) comes in.
The film’s CGI may take some getting used to — Pooh’s realistic black button eyes resemble those of a great white shark — but eventually the stuffed bear’s pleasantly worn and tactile design grew on me. Without spoiling the details, Pooh somehow finds himself in London with a very harried Christopher Robin. The interactions between Pooh (the lovable “bear of little brain”) and Christopher (the stereotypical melancholic, blinkered adult) are the best in the film. Pooh has a childlike way of innocently exposing the meaninglessness of Christopher Robin’s grown-up career. Eventually, Robin begins to question his priorities and learn how to play again.
This is not an unexpected character arc. In fact, it’s a pretty cliched one, recycled from films like Mary Poppins and Hook. But the movie’s utter predictability does not negate its sweetness. It’s ultimately a story about one family coming together again and finding happiness. Simple but effective. Much of the film’s charm is down to the actors. McGregor admirably commits to his scenes with Pooh & Co, while Cummings brings out the wistful sadness of the script. Together, they give the film real heart.
Whatever else might be said about the film’s lazy writing, Christopher Robin gets the job done — transporting kids to the lovely Hundred Acre Wood and taking their parents along for a pleasant nostalgia trip. There are worse ways to spend a rainy afternoon.