Christopher Robin
dir Marc Forster
prd Kristin Burr, Brigham Taylor
scr Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy, Allison Schroeder
with Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss, Oliver Ford Davies, Simon Farnaby, Mackenzie Crook, Matt Berry
voices Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammed, Peter Capaldi, Toby Jones, Sophie Okonedo, Sara Sheen
release US 3.Aug.18, UK 17.Aug.18
18/UK Disney 1h44
Christopher Robin
Childhood buddies: McGregor with Pooh

atwell gatiss garrett
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Christopher Robin High production values and a witty, knowing script elevate this gentle adventure into something unexpectedly involving. The underlying message about remaining connected to the child inside may not be original, but the story cleverly creates a strong sense of nostalgia relating to Winnie-the-Pooh. The acting and effects are first-rate, and the cast and crew make sure the film's heart is in the right place.

It's been decades since Christopher Robin (McGregor) left Hundred Acre Wood for boarding school. Now a war veteran with loving wife Evelyn (Atwell) and bright daughter Madeline (Carmichael), Christopher is overwhelmed with efficiency pressures at the London luggage company where he works. He even has to cancel on a promised weekend away with his family. And this is when Pooh (the superb Cummings) goes looking for him, bringing him back to work out why the woods have become so gloomy.

What follows is an involving odyssey that of course forces Christopher to remember the joys of letting his imagination run wild while apparently doing nothing. This includes some silly slapstick and a madcap car chase, although it's played for warmth rather than spectacle, drawing on the wryly hilarious characters. There's a knowing sense of absurdity throughout the story, plus genuinely funny dialog, but the overriding tone is earthy and introspective. This may sometimes cause the film to sag under the weight of its angst, but it's never long to wait for another laugh.

McGregor is terrific at playing a grown man whose inner little boy is bursting to get out. His workaholic approach may be alienating his family, but McGregor keeps Christopher likeable, never quite letting us give up hope. This is largely due to his endearingly offhanded chemistry with Pooh. And while the other roles are smaller, Atwell and especially Carmichael are both able to create shaded characters who are much more than side figures.

The animators excel in bringing Christopher's childhood friends to life. Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet are the main players, and they look like well-loved toys, with wonderfully worn textures and a superb sense of personality both in the way they look and express themselves (by contrast, Owl and Rabbit are like actual animals who speak). Foster also gives the film a strikingly grainy look that nicely sets the 1920s period and adds a nice slant on the Paddington-style tone, leaning into the whimsy rather than running from it.

cert pg themes, some violence 12.Aug.18

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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall