Walt Disney’s latest live-action movie Christopher Robin is less about AA Milne’s beloved literary creation Winnie-the-Pooh and more about Milne’s son and Pooh’s dearest human friend Robin (Ewan McGregor). In Marc Foster’s iteration of a story written by Alex Ross Perry, Robin is an adult and a boring version of one: a workaholic mired in a mid-life crisis.
Robin hasn’t met his silly old friend in years. He even appears to have forgotten Pooh. What’s worse? That Robin does not really want to meet Pooh again. Perhaps it is better if we don’t learn what certain characters from our favourite stories grow up to be.
The story is set in post-war London where Robin, a former soldier who is married and has a daughter, heads the efficiency department of a high-end suitcase manufacturing company. Robin’s most-prized asset is his work briefcase, and his favourite travel destination is his office. Naturally, his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Charmichael) aren’t too happy with him and things get worse when Robin says he cannot take off from work to join them on a weekend trip.
The only way to make Robin realise, as his wife says, that life is passing him by is to reconnect him to his carefree past. Enter Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings), who has been separated from his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood.
The reunion of the two long-lost friends, a moment that appears a good 20 minutes into the narrative, is lazily written. Instead of being heart-warming and nostalgic, the moment appears forced. Robin’s reaction to Pooh’s arrival prompts the unthinkable: perhaps, Robin doesn’t deserve Pooh’s friendship at all? The feeling never goes away even when the movie picks up pace and rushes towards Robin’s inevitable reformation.
Pooh, despite not allowed to tell us where he has been all these years, endears himself through his commonsensical one-liners (“I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been”), his hilarious observations of the “normal” city of London, and his unselfish hugs to the abrasive man-child next to him.
Some of the best moments in Christopher Robin are after Pooh and Robin meet the rest of the residents of the woods, who are brought to life through an excellently produced mix of computer graphics and animation. Among them, the eternally depressed donkey Eeyore (voiced by Brad Garett) offers a stellar show with his priceless one-liners (“This looks like a disaster, why wasn’t I invited?”)