Wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on top of a forest, a little bear will always be waiting. These were the last words uttered in Disney’s timeless feature and A.A. Milne’s classic book. Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) is now grown up with a family of his own (Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael). Whatever happened on the way, the suitcase company he works for keeps surprising him with unwanted weekend meetings concerning budget cuts. Nearing the end of his rope, a bear of very little brains from long ago (Jim Cummings) returns in his life to bring whatever joy he can no matter how old his friend is.
If you recall the bandicoot’s essay of wanted/unwanted live-action Disney remakes, Winnie the Pooh was at the bottom of the unwanted section. As cute as he is with ink and paint, there’s something about live-action that makes it harder to replicate E.H. Shepard’s innocence with those beady, expressionless eyes. Just watch the show Welcome to Pooh Corner for living proof on how that deep, uncanny valley turns into the Grand Canyon. Upon seeing the trailer, Pooh look more like an escaped animatronic from Five Nights at Freddy’s rather than the adorable, childhood friend the company revamped with their own image after buying the rights from Milne. And to some extent, not much changed in the final product taking too much time to get used to concerning the bear and bouncy cat(Jim Cummings). Others like Piglet (Nick Mohhamed), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), Roo (Sara Sheen), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Owl (Toby Jones) and scene stealer Eeyore (Brad Garett) survived the jump to 3D while keeping their personalities intact. Whenever that donkey speaks, it feels like the best friend that can make sarcastic remarks about all the harsh realities to cheer you up on a bad day. If only Pooh took a page from him in looks to be .
Unlike Beauty and the Beast which just reshot the original minus the Broadway talent, this is trying something different. Many stories have alluded to the eventuality of the boy growing up, but none have ever taken that plunge into the future. Probably for good reason because there’s not much to it when contained in the typical workaholic parent scenario that Walt Disney made relatable with kids and adults in Mary Poppins. Years later this trope is run into the ground with less improvements and more detriments after such classics like Evan Almighty, Jingle All the Way and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It’s not like Hook where the successful Robin Williams character treated his career like an only child as opposed to his real family. Christopher’s company is on the brink of collapse and unless he makes so hard decisions, there won’t be time for honey or playing Pooh sticks. Ewan McGregor has the sincerity and warmth of a grown child trying to survive the real world physically and psychologically, but it gets lost in not knowing how to properly make either side fully sympathetic, only stopping half-way through the development. In addition to the confused message the montage between childhood to young adult alone could’ve spent more time going deeper into how the world brought one person’s creativity to a halt during puberty. Might as well go all the way since there’s a big push to bring reality to a series that was already grounded no matter how far the everyday situations escalated. Speaking of which are the toys real or just part of Robin’s cracked mental state after being pushed to the limit? How do the creatures of the Hundred Acre Wood avoid the same knuckle sandwich impact of real world logic? All this and more won’t be explained anytime soon out of fear of not playing it safe if there’s no nostalgia to keep everyone distracted. This doesn’t have Steven Spielberg, but rather Marc Forster who pulled off a similar, more focused biographical fairy-tale Finding Neverland. And with Hidden Figures co-writer, Allison Schroeder, there should’ve been a lot more to explore outside the box. But by the end, it’s been infected with live-action Smurfs syndrome that puts a stain on the finale.
There’s a lot of passion to be found in Christopher Robin between mixing the stuffed animals with McGregor’s sincere portrayal. It didn’t feel the need to repeat the past to make a quick billion bucks opting to instead try something different. And in many ways still kept the spirit of that silly old bear. But it feels like things that were handed on a silver platter weren’t fully realized by growing up to be a generic workaholic parent story. So much confusion stems from not finding a way to make either the family or Christopher himself on the same level as the average adult or child in the worst situation. With all that said, it’s still one of the better live-action remakes compared to the past and future catalog of 50 plus classics old and modern (Who’s to say Wreck-it-ralph won’t go through the same process once John Lasseter’s time is up). It’s worth a watch though I hear a similar bear with a blue jacket had his second adventure this year searching for, not honey, but marmalade. Maybe he and Eeyore can team up for their own spin-off.