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‘Christopher Robin’ is a Story That Should Have Remained Untold

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HollywoodChicago.com Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

CHICAGO – Yeesh. Who woulda thunk that the fine people at Walt Disney Studios would throw the “legend” of Winnie-the-Pooh into a live action “sequel,” with absolutely no life… including the computer generated dead-eyed stuffed machinations of the famous animals. Yet, here we are with “Christopher Robin,” featuring Ewan McGregor in the title role.

Set after the childhood of the title character, this unnecessary film (at least the way it ended up), explores an adult Christopher being revisited by his stuffed pals as he has forgotten the zen life lessons of being and nothingness that his adventures as a boy with Winnie-the-Pooh gave him. Interestingly – and again unnecessarily – the voice actors imitate the original cartoon voices, to scattered success. One exception was Brad Garrett (“Everybody Loves Raymond” deep-toned brother) who brought blessed humor to Eeyore the Donkey, and I suspect many of his scene stealing lines came out of improvisation (see Kate McKinnon in “The Spy Who Dumped Me”). In conclusion, there are plenty of kid films in the theaters right now, this one can be skipped.

The film opens with the soon-to-be-teenager Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) saying goodbye to his “imaginary” stuffed toys Winnie-the-Pooh (voice of Jim Cummings), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Owl (Toby Jones), Tigger (Cummings again) and the rest in the Hundred Acre Wood. Cue the montage, as we seen CR going through schooling, World War II, love&marriage (to Hayley Atwell as Evelyn), fatherhood and the workaday world, as an efficiency expert in a luggage factory (I kid you not).

*CR1
The Title Character (Ewan McGregor) with Winnie-the-Pooh in ‘Christopher Robin’
Photo credit: Walt Disney Studios

In a thrilling twist, CR has to find a way to cut 20% out of the company’s systems, including personnel (the kids will love that). Pooh, meanwhile, has awoken from hibernation, but can’t find the rest of the gang. By magic, naturally, the Bear walks through a portal that brings him right across the street from CR’s flat. The old friends will help each other, CR to find Pooh’s gang, and Pooh to help CR lighten up.

If you were to go up to ten people who knows the story of Winnie-the-Pooh, and you were to say to them “what would be the story of an adult Christopher Robin and Pooh?,” nine out of ten would give you the plot above (hell, some of them might guess the luggage angle). It was lazy story telling – with five names on the story/screenwriting credits – and it came to a conclusion that was as dead in its predictability as the eyes on Pooh’s cloth face. It unfortunately also suffers in comparison from last year’s “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” which was a real life story of Pooh’s source author A.A. Milne, completely different but with similar titles and themes.

Ewan McGregor worked his arse off to make it work, and was game for anything, which either was motivated by a Disney paycheck or his true love for the Pooh legend… but he simply could not rise above the lame scenario. He was able to deliver a bit of the emotion and connection, which saved this film from one-star territory, but it wasn’t enough to save the whole enchilada. And why use the stunning Hayley Atwell as a supporting Mom? Heresy!

*CR1
CR with Wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and Daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) in ‘Christopher Robin’
Photo credit: Walt Disney Studios

As soon as the stuffed “characters” opened their mouths, there was a sense of regret that the production chose to imitate the distinctive voices of Sterling Holloway (the original Pooh) and Paul Mahoney (original Tigger). Jim Cummings did a decent job with both (and in fairness has been voicing the cartoons for years), but the slight “off-ness” of it will have the adults wondering why they’re squirming in their seats, when combined with the boring story. Thank WaltDisneyGod for Brad Garrett, whose how-low-can-you-go voice was actually a refreshing Eeyore, and most likely one of those many writers just did gags for Garrett’s take on the character.

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, and I suspect that the adults in the room will chuckle and feel warmth at the familiarity of it all, until they are stunned into silence by the lengthy 104 minutes… the kids will have already nodded off. The Disney Studio money machine could have done better, and should have done better. I predict a huge attendance drop-off after the first curious weekend. Silly old fickle audiences.

“Christopher Robin” opens everywhere on August 3rd. Featuring Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, and the voices of Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Nick Mohammed and Toby Jones. Screenplay by Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy and Allison Schroeder. Directed by Marc Foster. Rated “PG” (Wha?)

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Editor and Film Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2018 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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