Posted on August 3, 2018 by Matt Blum
1. Is it based on a true story?
No, which to me seemed strange, though not exactly disappointing. The movie’s title character has “Robin” for a last name, instead of a middle name as it of course was for author A.A. Milne’s son. In the world of the movie, all the young Christopher’s escapades in the Hundred Acre Wood were real, and his father wrote no stories. Thus he was never famous as the real Christopher Robin Milne was, which I’m sure was the main reason they chose to base the movie on a completely fictionalized version of him. The movie’s grown-up Christopher (Ewan McGregor) serves in World War II, marries, and has a daughter — as did the real man — but his experience and his family are very different.
All this is fine, of course, and makes sense considering the huge difference that the stuffed animals the movie’s Christopher played with were alive when he was a child and are still alive decades later. However, the movie’s creators made the choice to use a book as a framing narrative device, zooming into and out of the drawings as they resolve into scenes. It was not entirely clear to me at first when I saw it that they intended that to mean that the entire movie was in the universe of the Pooh stories; my wife felt the same confusion. Go in knowing that, and you should be fine.
2. Will my kids like it?
I can’t say for sure, as my kids are teens, but I think many little kids will find it boring, confusing, or both. The part of the movie where Christopher is a boy is over quickly, and includes scenes at his strict boarding school and at his father’s funeral. This is followed by short scenes of him growing into full adulthood, graduating college and getting married. Then there’s a scene of him going off to fight in World War II, leaving his pregnant wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) behind, followed by scenes of her raising their daughter alone for several years — interspersed with scenes of him at war — followed by his return to finally meet the girl. The war scenes include battles with gunfire and explosions, which are very likely to scare some children, and serve no useful purpose I can identify (though at least there is no on-screen blood or death) except possibly to avoid the film getting a G rating.
That said, my teenage kids loved the movie. If your kids are old enough to understand and enjoy some movies aimed at adults, they will likely find enough in Christopher Robin to entertain them. The worst that’s likely to happen if you take younger kids (as long as they aren’t likely to be scared by the battle scenes) is that they’re bored, so keep that in mind.
3. Will I like it?
If you grew up with the Pooh stories, then I have no doubt that you will, as the movie has clearly been made by similar people and — deliberately or not — for similar people. This is a movie whose message is blindingly obvious very nearly from the beginning, if indeed you haven’t already gleaned it from the trailers: adults need to work, but their families are more important than their jobs, and sometimes everyone just needs to play. The movie takes its time getting there, but there is much to enjoy along the way. The scenes with Pooh and his friends are uniformly delightful, with Jim Cummings doing his usual marvelous job as the voices of both Pooh and Tigger, and Brad Garrett proving the best choice for Eeyore’s voice ever. Mark Gatiss (best known as Sherlock‘s Mycroft Holmes) does a great job as Christopher’s completely unlikable boss, and his subordinates in the Efficiency Office of Winslow Luggage are very entertaining. Young Bronte Carmichael does a credible job as Madeline Robin, Christopher and Evelyn’s daughter, though her role mostly consists of being neglected by her father.
4. How is the CGI of Pooh and friends?
It’s amazing how far CGI has come. The stuffed-yet-alive animals are furry and look sewed together, yet when they speak and move it doesn’t seem creepy at all, and perhaps most importantly their eyes are entirely believable. The animals are obviously at some points in the movie “played” by actual stuffed animals, mostly when they have to be carried by humans, but it’s all seamless. My son thinks Tigger looks like a grumpy old man, but it’s still just as endearing as usual when he (Tigger, not my son) sings his trademark song. The movie wisely keeps the focus on Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger, with Rabbit (voiced by recently-retired Doctor Peter Capaldi), Owl, Kanga, and Roo only appearing in the Hundred Acre Wood and not in the “real world” scenes. Of course the most touching scenes are, as they should be, between Pooh and Christopher, with some lines that would draw tears from the most dispassionate of people.
It helps, of course, that the voice acting is just stellar. If Cummings and Garrett’s jobs in this movie don’t convince the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to create a “Best Voice Actor” Oscar, nothing will. And credit must be given to Hayley Atwell for convincingly rapidly switching from Woman Who Thinks Her Husband Is Insane Because He Believes His Stuffed Animals Are Alive into Woman Who Has Just Encountered Living Stuffed Animals.
5. How Hook-like is it?
If you’ve seen the Spielberg-helmed, Robin Williams-starring 1991 movie Hook, it’s hard not to think of it as you watch Christopher Robin. In that film, Williams played a grown-up Peter Pan who has to rediscover his youthful self to save his children. It’s a controversial film, and my personal view of it is that it should be seen, but doesn’t merit much re-viewing. The sets and costumes are so elaborate they distract from the actors, and the overacting of both Williams as Peter and Dustin Hoffman as Hook is only funny to a point.
Christopher Robin, I am glad to report, avoids those traps. When adult-Christopher pretends (with Eeyore’s help) to fight off a Heffalump so the other animals will believe he’s their Christopher Robin, it’s as subtly acted as it could be. There are limits to how subtle a grown man fighting a nonexistent foe while running about and making noises can be, but McGregor pulls it off without it getting campy.
6. When is a good time for a bathroom break?
It’s a (longer-than-necessary) two-hour film, so this may be necessary. If possible, try to go before the animals set off to London to get Christopher his papers, because you don’t want to miss Tigger’s song. Also, that’s when it starts to get exciting.
7. Do I have to stay through the credits for something extra?
There is a very nice, funny little film that shows just after the beginning of the credits, and I highly recommend staying for that. After that, though, it’s just credits. Oh, and if you (as I did) should notice the name “Chris Pratt” as an actor in the film, you should know that Disney has informed me that it isn’t that Chris Pratt.