I’ve been a little rough on Disney lately. But it’s not just Disney. It’s movies in general. I’m either looking for a really good story, really good acting, or both. Or I’m looking for a piece of entertainment that’s so entertaining I get lost in it. And when you talk about movies all the time, it’s hard to sometimes sit back and just enjoy the show.
On recent episodes of my podcast, we’ve been talking about Disney’s Christopher Robin. We’ve been hearing buzz and seeing trailers for several months now and my prediction was really solid. I decided that I would either find it to be really, really stupid OR I would absolutely love it.
A few years ago, I had similar feelings about a similar live action bear movie when Paddington rolled into the theaters. I thought it looked absolutely, annoyingly stupid and didn’t even think my son would enjoy it. And a few months later when it was available for rental, we were all pleasantly surprised by what a nice little movie it was. I was hoping for the same kind of reaction with Disney’s Christopher Robin.
But Christopher Robin had something going for it before I even walked into the theater.
I am a MEGA Winnie the Pooh fan.
As a child of the 70s, Winnie the Pooh was integrated into our lives. We watched the animated movies. I had a Winnie the Pooh clock on my nightstand. And my favorite dress was a print of the Hundred Acre Woods complete with all the characters and topped with a big red bow.
Imagine my excitement when Disney released an all new Winnie the Pooh animated feature in 2011. I had the chance to share it with my then 4 year old son who loved it. (Luckily, I got his video reaction which is priceless!).
The release of Disney’s Christopher Robin ushered in a new type of film, one that ties the story to its original roots.
Christopher Robin Milne was the son of famed Winnie the Pooh author, A. A. Milne. Yes, he was a real boy. The only child of his parents who entertained himself with stuffed animals named Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet that he brought to life in stories he told his parents. Along with his animal crowd, he incorporated two invented characters, Owl and Rabbit and his parents gifted him with two new animals named Tigger and Kanga.
Much like the movie’s Christopher Robin, he grew up in London and spent weekends at the family’s country cottage which became the setting for all his “friends” and their adventures. He eventually attended boarding school at the age of 10 and fought in World War II. He met and married his wife with whom he opened a bookshop because he never really cared for business.
These factual elements can definitely be seen to have influenced Disney’s Christopher Robin. It’s an imagining of what might have happened with Christopher Robin grew up and left his imaginary world behind. And along with that world, he left behind his imagination and spirit for adventure.
For reasons that aren’t explained, Pooh happens back into his life and an extremely skeptical Christopher Robin heads off to the country cottage to help Pooh find his way home.
On paper, the premise sounds a little ridiculous and unbelievable, even for a children’s movie. Yes, it’s fiction but it has to be fiction a world where the story would make sense and would work. And it totally works.
The casting is perfect (Ewan McGregor as Christopher Robin and Hayley Atwell as his wife). Pooh and his friends have been magically created to look like period-appropriate toys. And the story compels you the feel all the right emotions throughout the film. I walked away with a big smile in my heart.
My only complaint is that I wish Disney still offered merchandising at the theater like it did for its releases when I was growing up. I would have thrown my money to the first person to offer me a Pooh from the movie as soon as I walked out of the theater. And a red balloon would have been a nice touch as well.
My son enjoyed the movie but the sweet spot will be for younger moviegoers who will love Pooh and friends but probably not really see the big picture. But it’s parents that will enjoy this movie the most – reminding them of their own childhood and prompting them to rediscover the kid still inside of them.