As we grow up we are told to leave certain objects, behaviours, and ways of looking at the world behind. We can no longer be childish. We have to be grown-ups. Responsible. Or the new millennial word for it-‘adulting’. We make promises we can’t keep to ourselves and those who are important to us during those early years. But when we are asked to ‘grow up’, develop more ‘important’ priorities we forget that sometimes life is far simpler than we make it. Disney’s Christopher Robin is an adorable film. That is the best way to describe it. Every aspect of the film is based around the softness and gentleness of the world of Winnie the Pooh. Whether the beautiful colour palette of greens, yellows, and baby blues within the Hundred Acre Wood or the voice performances that animate the beloved inhabitants of Winnie the Pooh’s world.
We are used to young Christopher Robin playing with his companions in the endless sunny days. But this film asks one question; what if Christopher Robin grew up? The film starts with a typical Christopher Robin visit to Winnie the Pooh and his friends, walking through the woods, asking charming questions, and generally enjoying childhood. Then, through some worn, yellow pages of a novel we fast forward to the death of Christopher’s father and his journey into adulthood. Eventually we are reunited with a now middle aged Robin (Ewan McGregor) who is so sensible that someone should tax him for it. He has completely forgotten his childhood promise to always be there for his friends in the Hundred Acre wood.
Meanwhile Pooh, out of honey as always, finds his way to Christopher Robin to remind him that inside every worn out, overworked adult is a child, curious and delighted by the world. Here we find the message of the film. It is important now and then to ask ourselves the simplest questions and live in the present. As Benjamin Hoff says in the ‘Tao of Pooh’, the most important question we ask ourselves every day is ‘what do I have for breakfast?’
It does take some adjusting to the CGI puppet-style incarnations of these beloved characters but their voice actors certainly do them justice. Eeyore moans, Tigger bounces and gets himself into trouble, and Pooh complains that his tummy is rumbly. Ewan McGregor gives a subtle and honest performance as the grown up Christopher Robin. He enters the Hundred Acre wood as upright and stiff as Mr Banks, and loses himself completely in his imaginary battle with a heffalump. However, the amazing Hayley Atwell is wasted in the role of the demure Evelyn. She compliments McGregor well, but there is a hint that she could do so much more than the few lines she is given. Mark Gatiss must be given credit for his enjoyable appearance as the chief ‘woozle’ (which is a boring adult), Robin’s boss who forces him away from his family.
However, it did make me wonder exactly where the narrative was going. At times it felt as though Christopher Robin would have to save his friends from a real heffalump, or go on a quest to prevent his friends disappearing due to being forgotten. Especially when he fell into the heffleump and woozle trap. A moment heavy with metaphor and double entendre. Perhaps too heavy, as there was a rather light resolution to his problems and then he was off on his way back to London, albeit with a briefcase packed by Tigger. Filled with his definition of ‘important things’. But no fear, Madeline Robin – the next generation – is determined to save the day by returning the true contents of the briefcase to her father in London.
An adult in a children’s world is always a delicate balance. Too much and it becomes ridiculous, not enough and we don’t believe the adults’ realisation that happiness is more important than stability. Christopher Robin does not have as much depth as The Little Prince or perhaps Big Hero 6, but it does successfully reimagine A.A Milne’s characters. There is a chance the layers and nostalgia will be lost on young children watching the film, but it will delight those who grew up with Pooh. This film is perfect for parents with young children, and those who need reminding that in our rush to succeed and be productive we forget that life is about joy as well as security.
The perspective on childhood has changed significantly since the 1950s, the lines are not as clear cut with new stages of life such as ‘teenager’ and ‘young adult’ filling the gaps between adult and child. This has caused a rift between generations as parents ignore and refuse to listen to their children but demand respect from them. It does not mean that children are always right, but there is something to learn from the child who wakes up in the morning, sees the sun and is filled with joy. Disney is often criticised for their simplicity and lack of challenging, innovative movies but they do many things well and that must be noted. Furthermore, since watching the film, I have decided that my favourite insult is now ‘woozle’.
by Mia Garfield
Mia Garfield has just finished a degree in Film at Falmouth University. She has written about the female voice in cinema and negotiating the position of the female director. She has just finished her first short film ‘Sonder’, keep an eye out for it at festivals in the UK. A big lover of Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Mythology, her taste is varied and every time she is asked about her favourite film she gives a different answer. Today her favourite films include Howl’s Moving Castle, Memoirs of A Geisha, How to Train Your Dragon, and Big Hero 6. You can find her @miajulianna2864