Silly old bear. 41 years and five animated films (1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, 2000’s The Tigger Movie, 2003’s Piglet’s Big Movie, 2005’s Pooh’s Heffalump Movie and 2011’s Winnie the Pooh) later, it’s about time we finally get a big-screen feature of A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard’s beloved furry characters in a live-action/CGI hybrid.
In this movie, we learn that young Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien) is bidding farewell to his furry friends Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings), Tigger (also Cummings), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), Roo (Sara Sheen) and Owl (Toby Jones) as he prepares to head to the boarding school.
Decades later, Christopher (now played by Ewan McGregor) is all grown up and moved on with his life as an adult. He has since married to his beautiful wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and together, they had a daughter named Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). But he rarely spends quality time with his family as he often works long hours in a luggage company.
Things become rocky when a last-minute important paperwork forces Christopher to cancel his long-planned family weekend in Sussex cottage, which immediately upsets both of his wife and their daughter.
As Christopher’s life is turning upside down, along came Winnie the Pooh, who shows up in London one day and needing his help to locate his missing furry friends.
Christopher Robin attempts to have it both ways: a dark, depressing drama that deals with stress and midlife crisis and a whimsical, family-friendly entertainment aiming to please both adults and kids. But it’s a kind of mix that doesn’t feel like they belong in the otherwise sweet-natured world originally envisioned by A.A. Milne and E.H. Shepard. This is particularly evident during the first few scenes involving Christopher’s work and family issues. It feels a little too dour and gloomy for its own good.
Fortunately, director Marc Forster alongside screenwriters Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy and Allison Schroeder manage to find the right footing once Christopher reunites with Winnie the Pooh in a park.
And speaking of Winnie the Pooh, the movie does a great job bringing all the beloved furry characters to life in the form of photorealistic CGI. They are so lifelike without looking creepy as the CGI recreations of Pooh and his furry friends are just as adorable and cuddly as the animated versions. Kudos also go to Matthias Koenigswieser’s pleasant and sometimes poetic cinematography, making the movie all the more beautiful to look at.
I’m also glad that Christopher Robin does retain most of the familiar sweet-natured simplicity and nostalgic charm that made Winnie the Pooh and his friends such a beloved character for decades. All the voice cast is great, but I’m surprised to see Brad Garrett steals most of the show as the ever-pessimistic Eeyore. In fact, he even gets most of the best and funniest lines in this movie.
Ewan McGregor is decent enough as Christopher Robin. Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael, in the meantime, deliver adequate supports as Evelyn and Madeline.