Sunday, 21 October 2018

Film Review No. 44 Christopher Robin (PG)

Strong Points:
Amazing CGI
A great message
Some great bits of cinematography
Ewan McGregor plays Christopher Robin excellently
Inspired plenty of more games to play
Pooh's way of speaking
Christopher Robin's neighbour
Great chunks of nostalgia
Little bits of traditional animation
Classic songs make a reappearance

Weak Points:
Some of the animals are left out of most of the film
Christopher Robin's neighbour
The film sometimes relies on nostalgia too much, including with the time period - the entire film feels like a memory
Some of the darker elements

Warning: spoilers ahead

In-depth Review:
Christoper Robin is another Disney animated property given the live-action treatment. And I've got to say, when I first heard Winnie-The-Pooh was being adapted for live action a few years ago, many questions went through my head. Namely, how will they make the bear with very little brains and his friends look realistic, but still with the magic touch of the series? Well, have no fear, as it worked.

I don't normally talk about the visual effects at the beginning of a review but there's something special here that I couldn't wait to talk about them. Each character from The Hundred Acre Woods has been lovingly recreated in toy form and almost infected with charm and nostalgia. While still noticeably live-action Disney in the way they are created, the visual effects are a lot less busy and Gothic than say, Beauty and the Beast or Alice in Wonderland. The cinematography was also excellent, with the shot of Pooh's hand tracing the grass engraved in my memory even now.

The story itself revolves around Christopher Robin, now an adult, and an efficiency expert at Wilson Luggages. He neglects his family, stresses about work and eventually realises that there are more important things than trying to knock an extra 2% off a quota. Overall, the story is quite basic and more like the storylines of old Disney Classics rather than the bloated plots of the new live-action films, which is by no means a bad thing.

Ewan McGregor plays the eponymous character of Christopher Robin. While it took me a little while to adjust to the idea of Christopher Robin having anxiety and morality crises, McGregor wasted no time to try and find the fun and kindness of the character. He's constantly looking out for others, even if not in the best way and his slow re-acceptance of the animals of The Hundred Acre Woods is great to witness. The other human characters are mostly well played as well, especially Mark Gatiss as Christopher Robin's boss, Hayley Atwell as his wife and Bronte Carmichael as his daughter, Madeline. They all imbued the film with a sense of comic villainy, empathy and childlike glee and wisdom respectively

Pooh's ability to find the positive in any situation or sentence is infectious and is almost guaranteed to bring a smile, laugh or tear to anyone watching. While maybe not as masterfully crafted as A.A Milne's original, most of the messages are classically simple, yet profound. They will either make you think hard or just smile and say, 'silly old bear'. A particular scene at a bench between Pooh and Christopher Robbin is particularly poignant, a scene which I thought about for days afterwards. The new games introduced in this movie are great too, with the 'say what you see' game occupying many a walk or drive.

Not everything is fun and games in this world though, and I think that's where this film may falter sometimes. Darker elements show that Christopher Robin (both the character and the film) is trying to grow up, which can sometimes strain the innocent nature of the other characters. Yes, the idea of growing up is central to the story but adding a war scene and a scene where Christopher Robin has an existential crisis at the bottom of the well may not be the way of going about getting the message across, however well done the individual scenes are. I also wasn't entirely sure about his neighbour, who while providing a few laughs, to begin with, verged on just creepy by the end.

I was slightly worried when I read the voice cast to begin with. Not only was the previous voice cast largely absent, but a few famous faces had joined, which could have been quite jarring, as their voices would have been recognisable. Thankfully, my worries were unfounded, as all the cast were excellent. Having Jim Cummings return to play not only Pooh Bear but also Tigger was also a masterstroke by Disney.

Conclusion: a brilliant, small in scale, big in heart film. Pooh and friends were realised excellently and the message is something to think about, especially in these busy, target focused times.

Rating: 91%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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