CHRISTOPHER ROBIN is the latest film from director Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), which combines live-action and animation, and centers around Christopher Robin as an adult and what transpires when he encounters his old friend, Winnie-the-Pooh. The film stars Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge!), Hayley Atwell (Captain America: The First Avenger), and Bronte Carmichael (On Chesil Beach), along with veteran voice actor Jim Cummings as Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger, as well as Brad Garret as Eeyore, Nick Mohammed as Piglet, Peter Capaldi as Rabbit, Sophie Okonedo as Kanga, Sara Sheen as Roo and Toby Jones as Owl.
The film opens up at Hundred Acre Woods where we find out favorite woodland creatures throwing a farewell party for young Christopher Robin (Orton O'Brien). We come to learn that Christopher is being sent away to boarding school but has made the promise to Pooh that he will never forget him. Fast forward many years later and we now Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) as an adult, married to his sweetheart Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), with whom they have a daughter named Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). Long hours and unreasonable demands have kept Christopher from his family but he's hoping that a weekend getaway to the countryside will help in repairing those fractured pieces. However, when his superior, Giles Winslow Jr. (Mark Gatiss) informs him that Winslow Luggage has hit hard times and that Christopher will need to lay off 20% of his employees, he finds himself forced to work instead of visiting the countryside with his family.
Coinciding with this, Pooh wakes up in his honey-filled home with none of his friends in sight. Unable to locate them, Pooh decides to take a chance and go through the door Christopher Robin once used to visit, only to find himself in London. Once there, he is reunited with Christopher, who is at once shocked and distracted by the presence of Pooh, and proceeds to explain that all their friends are missing. Determined to return Pooh back to Hundred Acre Woods so that he can get back to work, Christopher Robin and Pooh embark on an adventure that forces Christopher to look deep within himself to once again find the joy and child-like imagination that he once had - not just for his sake but also for the sake of his family.
First and foremost, let's address the elephant, or adorable teddy-bear, in the room. Why is a horror site reviewing a kid's film about woodland creatures and the everlasting joy a child-like imagination can bring? Well, let me tell you something, though those themes are present in the film, there's also a fair amount of dark content that I was not prepared for. Themes of abandonment, sadness, and misguided judgment play a central role in the overarching story of the film. There's also a rather long scene in which we see a lost Winnie-the-Pooh walking through Hundred Acre Woods as tendrils of fog snake their way around him while he holds a red balloon. I just about expected Pennywise to pop out of some unseen drainage pipe to ask Winnie-the-Pooh if he wanted to float. Then, of course, you have the Heffalump and Woozles, the elephant and weasel-like creatures that Pooh, Piglet and the rest of their friends are terrified of. The indication of their existence is woven in a way in which I found myself slightly concerned for their well-begin.
As for the film as a whole, I thought it was done very well. Honestly, I was initially put off by the animation, as I found it to be really unsettling, but as the film went on I became much more adjusted to it. Another bonus was that the humor was spot on, especially between Pooh and Christopher Robin. I was surprised to find that I related pretty hard to these inanimate creatures, but man, the older you get the more you understand where Pooh and Eeyore are coming from. My only caveat to all of this is that I felt as though the beginning portions of the film dragged on, and though I knew it was because they were establishing Christopher Robin's background, I felt as though it could have been cut short a bit.
All in all, I'm interested to see how CHRISTOPHER ROBIN does when it's released theatrically. I think it's going to have a hard time capturing younger audiences as the plot is more directed towards adults. Regardless, CHRISTOPHER ROBIN ended up being way better than I expected and I absolutely loved the dark tones presented throughout (and am still convinced that Pennywise is waiting for Winnie-the-Pooh). I think adults will find a part of themselves within the film and I can only hope it'll trigger feelings of nostalgia and happiness for them while watching it. And if not? Well, there's always my version featuring Pennywise the Dancing Clown. (Oh, and make sure you stay for the mid-credit scene).
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN arrives in theaters August 3, 2018 from Walt Disney Studios.