Earlier this year I was smitten by a movie about the adventures of a marmalade-obsessed British bear; it was “Paddington 2,” and if you saw the film, I don’t even have to explain to you why I absolutely loved it.
Taking a crack with its own bear tale, Disney is stirring up memories of childhood fun and simpler times with “Christopher Robin,” a live-action flick about that ragtag bunch from Hundred Acre Wood and its “hunny”-loving skipper, Winnie the Pooh.
And I absolutely loved it.
Director Marc Forster (“Quantum of Solace”) flawlessly introduces everything right from the start with pages of a storybook flipping before our eyes, stopping to allow us to read snippets here and there so we know the setting (“… deep in the Hundred Acre Wood…”) and the characters (“… Christopher Robin plays with his friends…”) and the details (“… comes the day… they say ‘goodbye’…”).
We watch young Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien) have a final tea party with his friends before saying “fairwell” and exiting through that magical doorway – and re-entering the real world.
His final childhood chat with Pooh (voice by Jim Cummings) is profoundly wistful – and probably will make you cry.
Chapter titles in the book continue to detail Christopher Robin’s life as he “leaves childhood behind,” each step of the way enhanced by a sketch of the action that then morphs into real life – and then back to a sketch, all the while Pooh stands at the doorway, waiting and hoping to see his friend again.
The drawings, by the way, that we see moving across the pages are based on Winnie the Pooh illustrations by E.H. Shepard that accompanied the stories of A.A. Milne.
It’s a brilliant way to show this story literally jumping off the page.
Many years later, a now-grown Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) has a wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), and a daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) – and a job that sadly has become his top priority.
What to do, what to do?
But with some unexpected help – or “expotition,” if you will – from some old friends, he may just remember that “doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.”
That Pooh! He’s like a more colorful and less wrinkly Yoda, full of cyclical and nonsensical philosophy that’s actually substantial and genius in its simplicity: “I always get to where I’m going by walking awary from where I’ve been.”
For a bear with few facial features and even fewer expressions, he sure knows how to deliver a most sincere message.
When he brushes his paw against Christopher Robin’s eyes and tells him in that soft, matter-of-fact Pooh tone, “it’s still you, looking out,” you’ll be sitting in a puddle of your own emotions because that bear has a way of tugging at your heart.
I think a lot of that is because of Cummings’ distinct and familiar voice; he’s been the voice of Winnie the Pooh since the late 80s, and hearing it again brings about those warm feelings of nostalgia.
And joining Pooh is the always energetic Tigger (also voiced by Cummings), who even sings his Tigger song; the downtrodden yet sometimes hilarious Eyeore (Brad Garrett); unassuming worry-wart Piglet (Nick Mohammed); Rabbit (Peter Capaldi); Owl (Toby Jones); Kanga (Sophie Okonedo) and Roo (Sara Sheen).
These characters are fluffy and real, like stuffed toys brought to life by movement so fluid you’ll buy into it completely.
McGregor’s interactions with them – mostly with Pooh – are delightful and captivating and authentic and whimsical. And there are unexpected moments of humor that caught me off guard, witty comments or reactions that had me legitimately laughing out loud.
There’s action and adventure, and there are quiet moments of meaningful discussion and subtle messages.
The delicate lighting gives the overall look of the film a pleasant, vintage-like feel. There are select focus images that metaphorically call attention to little details.
There’s mention of Heffalumps and Woozles – which, of course, are real things because “it’s on the sign!”
You’ll also reminisce with some of those famous Pooh lines, such as, “There’s a rumbly in my tumbly,” and, “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day.”
Silly ‘ol bear!
Sure Winnie the Pooh is a timeless collection of classic stories for children, but what Disney has done with “Christopher Robin” is delivered a lovely and very sweet piece of entertainment that offers something for all generations.
It has set a place at the tea party for everyone.
You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel. You also can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.