There’s nothing more wise that a child’s words. Children are gifted with not having the complexities of life drilled into them, and thus are able to approach every situation with simple solutions that seem to be answers sought by life-long philosophers. This innocent wisdom was part of the magic of “Winnie the Pooh,” which when published right after World War I in Britain, cheered up the masses with its simple and cheerful look at life. The book became a best seller, and Disney brought the stories to life in animated form with films that started in the 1960s and continued through the decades, the latest coming out in 2011. However, the recent live-action remake craze in the House of Mouse has inevitably come around for Pooh as well.
Christopher Robin is a sequel more than a remake. The film takes place after the childhood adventures of Christopher Robin, and instead finds him (played by Ewan McGregor) as a cynical adult working in a post-World War II London. Christopher Robin has become so embroiled in his work that he has forgotten the lessons he used to learn from Pooh and his friends; he is absent from his family (played by Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael), and drills his daughter with schoolwork. It is only when his childhood friend Winnie the Pooh (voiced by original voice-actor Jim Cummings) shows up in London that Christopher Robin embarks on a journey of self-reflection.
The film is as sweet as they come; it revels most when it has Pooh or the other stuffed animals commenting wise phrases to Christopher Robin’s “mature arguments.” Director Marc Forster captures that sense of wonder and happiness that one can see in a child when playing with their imagination. Ewan McGregor embodies the film’s main character with enthusiasm, never embarrassed that the film might feel too warm or fuzzy.
That being said the film does decide to play it safe with its storyline, casting Mark Gatiss as a caricature villain that hardly raises stakes into the film’s plot. The inevitable transformation of Christopher Robin into a more optimistic person is also handled with some sloppiness; Robin is a pessimist one moment and then seemingly after sleeping one night is an entirely different person. This abruptness might slip under the radar of younger viewers, but for the more experienced it looks cheap and lazy.
Nevertheless, one walks out of this film feeling rejuvenated and cheerful. Christopher Robin isn’t the Winnie the Pooh movie, but its existence is nevertheless grateful and incredibly therapeutic for those viewers drowning in the complexities of today.