“Christopher Robin” (PG)
Printed across the screen in the opening moments of “Christopher Robin” are the words “Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood ...” They’re accompanied by sepia drawings, delicately animated, of some of A.A. Milne’s cherished characters. Then everything switches to live action, with young Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien), in those woods, having a big, funny, messy celebration with his pals: Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Piglet, Owl, and the rest. Though it’s a happy time, there’s a tinge of melancholy in the air, because it’s a farewell party for Christopher who, according to additional words on the screen, is “leaving his childhood behind,” and heading off to boarding school.
But some viewers might miss part of that plotline because they’ll be so fascinated by the realism of the stunning CGI work in the animal characters. It shouldn’t take more than a few seconds for anyone of any age to decide that they’re real. Once their wonderfully developed personalities come into play, everyone will be so wrapped up in what they’re watching, there will be no further thoughts of “how did they do that?”
Hopefully, plenty of attention will be paid to the dialogue which, as it should be, is equally as important as the visuals. There’s Christopher saying goodbye to his pal Pooh, promising, “I won’t ever forget you.”
Then, in an instance of smooth, swift, storytelling, all of it done before the opening credits are finished, young Christopher is orphaned, grows up to become adult Christopher (Ewan McGregor), meets and marries Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), goes off to fight in World War II, comes home and starts a family, and lands a job as an efficiency manager at a large luggage company.
But as an adult with responsibilities, he breaks his promise and forgets about Winnie the Pooh and all of his pals and the good times in Hundred Acre Wood. Alas, he’s also forgotten how to be happy; he’s now all serious and stuffy. And the drudgery of his job keeps taking him away from spending time with his wife and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). “I haven’t seen you laugh in years,” says Evelyn just after Christopher says he can’t go away to the country with them because he has to work.
There’s a different kind of trouble in Hundred Acre Wood. One morning Pooh (voice of Jim Cummings) wakes up and can’t find his friends, so he heads to London to ask Christopher for help with this dilemma. The meeting does not go smoothly, at least not for Christopher, who later admits he hasn’t thought about those good old days for 30 years, even though Pooh says he and his friends have thought about Christopher every day.
But hold on. This is not a sad and dreary movie. It’s sweet and charming, it’s often outright hilarious, and it’s wistful and whimsical. After some comic misadventures in London, Christopher does go back to Hundred Acre Wood where, because he’s now a man, not a boy, he can’t quite fit into the places he used to play. He also admits to Pooh that he’s not who he used to be, that he’s lost direction in life.
Lest things get gloomy, there’s Pooh’s pals to deal with. Tigger (also Jim Cummings) likes to bounce around and sing. He gets a lot of laughs. But the most giggles come from the actions and words of woe-is-me Eeyore (deep voice of Brad Garrett), he of little faith in himself.
The story eventually brings all of the main people and animals to the Wood, then back to London on an “expedition.” Its subject matters range between “Your dreams can all come true” to “What happened to my dreams?” With Christopher Robin at the center of it all, the main concerns are whether or not he’ll find himself and if he’ll figure out what’s most important in life. On the way to those answers, the film will keep everyone watching totally engrossed and loving every minute of it.