We’re all familiar with the phrase “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” The same can be said of time. But there’s more than one way to waste time, and time well spent isn’t always what we think it is. Christopher Robin is here to challenge misconceptions about fruitful living; “doing nothing often leads to the very best something.”
Before we go any further, I just want to say this: anyone who suspects this movie might just be a money-grab ought to be pleasantly surprised. This isn’t one of those instances in which the film industry is lazily milking the classic cow. Christopher Robin does a beautiful job creating the appropriate nostalgic atmosphere, with wonderfully executed CG incarnations of our favorite Pooh characters sporting the very personalities that make them unforgettable. Simultaneously, this Disney offering carries with it a thought-provoking theme which grounds the plot and stands firmly at its heart.
Heading up the cast in top form is Ewan McGregor, a grownup Christopher Robin, who doesn’t even seem to be a shadow of the boy who romped about in the Hundred Acre Wood. Life has demanded quite a lot of Christopher, and the brief span that was his childhood is little more than a forgotten memory. But just when he’s in the midst of a career-defining project, who should appear to rock his adult world? None other than Winnie the Pooh!
A gloomy, cheerless morning lacking friendly faces brings a disconcerted Pooh face to face with his old friend. After overcoming his shock, Christopher agrees to help Pooh find their missing friends, though he is still very much in the grip of his work. The mingling of Pooh and a grownup Christopher Robin in a grownup world puts child’s logic and innocence at odds with the dour inhibitions of the overworked adult mind. Even as Christopher Robin aids Pooh in the search for his friends, he makes every effort to keep the world of his childhood in the past. He finds himself echoing his boss. “Nothing comes from nothing,” he says, to which Pooh counters, “people say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing everyday.” Though Christopher tries to bury his childhood, insisting his adult life has no time for it, it’s clear to the audience for most of the film that these worlds must necessarily converge for any meaningful resolution to be reached; by letting the demands of work life depreciate the value of his own childhood, Christopher is missing out on his daughter’s childhood.
We’re told that dreams must be vigorously pursued. There is truth to this, but as Christopher Robin illustrates, it is far too easy to work so much for our living that virtually no time is left to do just that – live. “Your life is happening now, right in front of you,” says Hailey Atwell’s Evelyn Robin (Christopher’s wife). There’s more to “living the dream” than providing financially for one’s self and one’s family. All the money in the world won’t buy back the time we spend being emotionally unavailable or neglecting the “little” things that are so very big. What the world of work and academia wants to call “nothing” isn’t nothing at all. What “nothing” really consists of are those precious moments spent making memories with the people we care about. They’re the moments of peace in which we enjoy the gifts that life has to offer and exercise our imagination while we escape the day-to-day chaos. As Pooh Bear and friends gambol into his grownup reality, Christopher Robin is reminded of what brought joy to his life in the first place. He’s reminded of the things that make “nothing” so full of everything.
Christopher Robin is even better than I expected. There may be one or two bits that feel a tad recycled, but the film isn’t worse off for it. The scene in the boardroom, for instance (spoiler alert!), when Christopher Robin stands up to Winslow (Mark Gattis) seems a little reminiscent of George Banks’ big moment in Mary Poppins. That does little to diminish the strength of the scene, however. And I can’t leave without mentioning the brilliant voice acting cast, which includes Jim Cummings (longstanding voice of Tigger and Pooh), Peter Capaldi, Toby Jones, Nick Mohammed, and Sophie Okonedo. The one that nearly stole the show for me, though, was Brad Garrett as Eeyore. Could that casting choice have been any more on the nose?
As a Winnie the Pooh story, and as family films go in general, Christopher Robin has a lot going for it. The message may be a little familiar, but it’s one the world doesn’t hear often enough. Well worth the price of admission.