Ah, the imagination of youth. Making up grand adventures for you and your playthings to go on, it’s a magical time that in one’s life that can’t be replicated. Or can it? Famous plaything story maker-upper Christopher Robin one day grows up and has to leave his playthings behind. He goes to boarding school! Experiences death! Goes to war! Gets married and becomes a work obsessed neglectful father! But what about his playthings? What about Pooh, and Piglet, and the 100 Acre Wood? What happens to your old toys when you grow up? Wasn’t that the plot of Toy Story 3? Well as Christopher Robin’s playthings wait year after long year for him to return, what do they do? If you’re Winnie the Pooh and friends, you go fucking find him, that’s what.
Christopher Robin is not something one goes to see expecting to be challenged. It is, after all, a children’s film. But there are plenty of adults who have grown up with the charm of Pooh et al. who could find the idea of a man rediscovering his youth mildly interesting, if for nothing else than the gorgeous CG work and the heavy nostalgia feels. Will kids be amazed? The younger ones will (though probably bored to tears by the rather mature set up), but there are plenty of other children’s fare that I think would hold the attention of older kids better. What we have here is Hook without the pirate fights and crocodiles, The Santa Clause sans the inneundos and flying reindeer. This is Ewan McGregor running around playing with magical stuffed animals, a simple story that doesn’t go out of its way to surprise you.
Not to say that that’s generally a bad thing. The characters originally created by A.A. Milne (and franchised by Walt Disney) have stuck around this long for a reason. There is an innocent charm to them all, which really shines through here. Even the most hardened cynics (which would be me, I suppose) won’t be able to stop from cracking a smile at at least a few moments. The characters are helped a lot by the excellent voice work and CGI. While the CG in some recent Disney films has been distractingly obvious and overdone (from the previews, the upcoming Nutcracker looks like a candy store vomited on the screen), the work here is not only tastefully minimal, but it feels organic. These animals look like actual stuffed toys existing in our world.
Christopher Robin is like curling up under a warm blanket with an old favorite book on a dreary day. There are no surprises, and you know how it’s going to end before you get to the end of the first page. This is cinematic comfort food. Having it wrapped up in the everlasting charm of Pooh and Tigger will be enough for some people. And it is enough for me, to an extent. There are almost no moments here that are actively bad (minus one or two moments of poor devices used to move the plot forward), but there isn’t much that’s truly exceptional either. Christopher Robin is a cute, easily digestible, breeze of a film. You may have seen this all before, but not with a clinically depressed stuffed donkey.