Most of us probably have at least one childhood memory involving “Winnie the Pooh” — whether it was reading the books, watching the cartoons or playing with the stuffed animal versions of these beloved characters, like Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, and, of course, Pooh himself.
I hadn’t thought about “Winnie the Pooh” in a while, actually, but I was intrigued by the trailers for Disney’s new live action film, “Christopher Robin.” The film takes place many years after Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) last visited the Hundred Acre Wood to play with his animal friends. He’s grown up now, and the pressures of the “real world” have squeezed much of the light and imagination out of his life. He has a wife and daughter, but he sees them less and less as stress piles on at work. The spirit of the younger, happier Christopher Robin seems pretty much gone…until a little bit of magic brings Pooh back into his life.
I really liked the film’s theme of rediscovering childhood, because I had kind of forgotten about how much I enjoyed these characters as a kid, and I loved being reminded about them. There’s something timeless and appealing about the lovable but bumbling Pooh, the exuberant and bouncy Tigger, the long-suffering and pessimistic Eeyore, and the rest of the gang. You could fast forward 50 years, and these characters will still be just as charming.
The film moves at a fairly slow pace, but I don’t mean that as a criticism. Many movies geared specifically towards “kids and families” these days tend to move a frenetic pace, with bright, wacky visuals blasting the screen. I don’t necessarily mean that as a criticism, either; I adore “The Lego Movie,” which can only be described as “bright and frenetic.” ? But sometimes it really is nice to take a breather, to just sit back and enjoy a movie at a more leisurely pace. “Christopher Robin” feels like an old-fashioned film, with a simple but important message.
The film’s tone is surprisingly melancholy, a fact that I didn’t mind but is good to know going in. It is hard to see Christopher Robin struggling and feeling so unhappy, and although the film does, of course, have a happy ending, it doesn’t rush to get there. We’re presented with some very sad moments, as we see Christopher and his wife, Christopher and his daughter, and even Christopher and Pooh drifting apart.
I’m always happy to see Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell in a film, but the real stars of this movie are arguably Pooh & Co. At first when I saw the trailers, I wasn’t completely sold on the look of the stuffed animals, as some of them actually appear a bit dingy and faded. But it fits with the film’s tone, I think; these animals are worn and have been well played with, an indication of how much they’ve been loved.
The film is what I would call “sweetly funny,” with hijinks that will make younger children laugh but won’t make adults roll their eyes. Kids will enjoy watching the stuffed animals’ adventures, while adults will find deeper themes to reflect on. I’m sure most of us can relate to Christopher Robin at least a little bit, as the stresses of “grown-up life” sometimes put a damper on that unabashed joy we used to feel as kids.
There aren’t really any surprises in this film, and it’s not really groundbreaking per se. It would be just fine to wait to watch on DVD. Yet I’m glad I paid to see it in the theater, and it’s exactly the sort of movie I needed after a rough week. I think it’s also exactly the sort of movie needed by our culture at large. We need to be reminded of the importance of kindness and friendship and compassion. We need to be reminded that the best — and most important things in life — are the people around us. When things look dark, we need to be reminded that the light is still there, we may just need to try to shine a little brighter.
I enjoyed my trip to the Hundred Acre Wood at the movie theater this weekend, and as I go about the rest of my week, I’m going to make an effort to set aside my stresses and find the joy in the little things in life…just as Pooh does with his famous pot of honey.