By: Christian Harding (Three Beers) –
Welp, it’s only been seven years since Disney’s last attempt to cash in on the broad cultural nostalgia for Winnie the Pooh, so why not give it another go? And this time in live action, no less!
I kid, I kid. Despite the obvious corporate necessity behind Disney’s revisiting every single recognizable brand name property under the sun, it’s still very nice to see such lovable characters returning to the big screen after such a long hiatus. This particular return to the Hundred Acre Wood of A.A. Milne’s classic fables comes in the form of Christopher Robin, a live action pseudo-sequel of sorts to the entirely legacy of Pooh and the gang, which sees the titular central figure all grown up and making his way out in the real world; that is, until Robin finds himself in desperate need to some revived confidence from his faithful, beloved childhood best friends, and most importantly of all the ever lovable Winnie the Pooh. And given the more aged human protagonist this time around, the themes and subject matter for this film are appropriately aged up along with its characters, as well as the overall tone of the piece.
Less time is spent on wacky hi-jinks and an episodic series of random misadventures in the middle of the forest, but rather more time is devoted to characters simply discussing their feelings and the internalized issues du jour. And frankly, Christopher Robin is all the better for it, since this marks one of the very few wide release family films from the summer that doesn’t rely on excessive activity and action to keep the kiddos entertained all the way through, and instead respects the intelligence and attention span of its younger audience members by allowing them time to experience some more thoughtful, contemplative material than perhaps they’ve been so conditioned by as of late.
For all that Christopher Robin wisely shies away from a number of the modern filmmaking conventions commonly associated with family films, it unfortunately can’t escape from a certain level of familiarity in terms of its storytelling – namely, how this film is essentially just Hook but for the Winnie the Pooh crew instead of Peter Pan. Now, in practice that isn’t necessarily such a bad thing, since it allows for a more grown up exploration of the characters and their dilemmas. But it also means that the overall flow of the film leans a bit more to the conventional side of things. Again, not a fatal flaw, but one that keeps it from maybe feeling as fresh or effective as it could have been.
Why does this film look so ugly? I’ve made mention in reviews past on here of the growing Hollywood trend of dimming the color palette of your film to favor a more dreary, blue-grey sort of tint. The earliest example this writer can think of would be Saving Private Ryan, which came out almost exactly twenty years ago – and the trend has only increased in popularity since then. And admittedly, for some films it’s very appropriate and adds quite a bit (another recent instance of this adding to the overall experience of a film would be The Revenant). But in the case of Christopher Robin, it is *beyond* unfitting and only works as a hindrance on the otherwise lightweight, kid-friendly proceedings at hand. Hopefully for future projects, Disney will find better use of this murky, dour color scheme and keep it far away from the likes of Winnie the Pooh and his friends. But until that time, we can only be left to wonder why a live action adaptation of this particular source material looks the exact same way as every Clint Eastwood-directed film from the past fifteen years.
For the pleasant, unassuming summer diversion it is, Christopher Robin won’t exactly change anybody’s life, but it’s not trying to. For what it’s trying to be, which is a light, enjoyable late summer journey, the film functions perfectly well, warts and all. Above all else, it pays faithful tribute to the lovable, classic characters at the center of the tale, and that’s the most important ingredient of all. A nice two hours spent in the theater is all this film asks of you, and on that front, it succeeds just fine.
Christopher Robin (2018) Drinking Game
Do a Shot: for every famous quote or catchphrase.
Do a Separate Shot: whenever Pooh says “Oh, bother…”
One more Shot: if/when somebody other than Christopher Robin interacts with any of the animal characters.
Shotgun a Beer: for the lone performance of the Tigger theme song!