PG. Again, I'm the guy who will advocate for a G rating on lots of things. There's one thing that is slightly scary and that's Heffalumps and Woozles. But if you know your Winnie the Pooh (I can't claim to know A.A.Milne), Heffalumps and Woozles are imaginary. You are scaring yourself. Now, try explaining that to a four year old who doesn't know any better that Heffalumps and Woozles don't exist. Regardless, I think it should be a G rating. There's a quick shot of a war and a family member dies early in a montage. Still, PG.
DIRECTOR: Marc Forster
I may have to change my tune on Marc Forster. See, I was one of the people who kind of liked Quantum of Solace. I knew that he made Monster's Ball and that he had a reputation as kind of an artsy director who took some more mainstream stuff in his ouvre. But a lot of this is in response to what people thought of Mary Poppins Returns. Apparently, everyone hated that movie and that my tastes are bananas. I'm really going to make people mad when I say that Christopher Robin...isn't that good.
I'm not the kind of guy who takes a swing at Disney. Honestly, the folks at Disney have been crushing it for a while. Like, for a long while, the Disney people have been almost batting a thousand. But I don't think that a moving idea has felt more corporate than with Christopher Robin. This movie feels extremely reactionary. CineFix named Paddington 2 the best comedy of 2018 and that makes a weird amount of sense. The Paddington movies are absolutely some of the best family movies that I've seen for a long time. Guess what? They aren't made by Disney. Disney has one of the the OG adorable teddy bear characters. I completely see someone who is a higher up in the Disney eschelons wondering why they didn't make the Paddington movies first. So they hire this big shot director who makes things look amazing. That's what was going to separate them from the Paddington movies. The Disney movies were going to look better than those hobo Paddington movies (despite the fact that the Paddington movies are completely tonally perfect). The thing about Christopher Robin is that it is just bleak. Winnie the Pooh has always been kind of reserved. I'm glad that Disney didn't go for bombastic and pandering, but this movie is just sad and boring. I mean, it's not overly sad. But it is meant to make me cry. When I teach The Bicycle Thieves, I talk about how DiSica was concerned with telling a story. The tears are the product of that story being told. This story is flipped on that pyramid. The movie is checking off a lot of boxes that make a movie look sad. The pacing is at a snail's pace and things just kind of happen. Forster capitalizes on our nostalgia for Winnie the Pooh to drive a lot of the scenes. I wanted to be in love with Winnie the Pooh. I mean, I certainly like the Winnie the Pooh movies. They are fun and cute. But just showing me a live action Winnie the Pooh isn't going to do much for me. It just all feels so lazy when it comes down to it. Paddington and its sequel took a character that I didn't give a fig about and developed him into something that I find quite precious. It did the legwork and I now preach those movies. Christopher Robin took something that I had medium interest in and then kind of lost it. It's not like the movie is terrible or anything. It has huge third act problems and that's no good.
Christopher Robin rests on a tired premise. There was absolutely nothing shocking about how this movie played out. I'm actually yawning right now listening to the music and writing about this movie. (Imagine trying to keep my kids on the couch while watching this. A nightmare, let me tell you.) The movie is Hook. Only Hook, as dated as it kind of is today, did it way better. Christopher Robin used to go on all these adventures. But since all children grow up and become adults, so too did Christopher Robin. The only difference that makes Christopher Robin kind of a punk is that he actually remembers and believes in all of his memories, to a certain extent. When Pooh shows up in his adult life, there isn't much of an adjustment period. He just kind of accepts this call to adventure. I just realized that I don't need to even use Hook as an example of the same story. I just reviewed Mary Poppins Returns last. I'm going to be using that story as the successful narrative, despite the fact that apparently I'm the only one who really liked it. I think we all get it. Adulthood has its fair share of responsibilities and we shouldn't forget our childhood. I'm not blaming Forster for the next problem because this seems to be a script issue more than anything else, but Christopher Robin's responsibilities are actually valid. In the Mary Poppins movies, the adults work obsessively to gain more money and that's because that's what adults do. But in Christopher Robin's case, he is responsible for people's jobs. This is such an odd choice because it makes him heroic. Is Winnie the Pooh and the members of the Hundred Acre Woods advocating for big business to wipe away the lower work force? Yeah, I know that Christopher Robin should be playing with his kid, but sometimes it actually matters that people work and work hard. His entire project is determining a way to cut down a budget by 15 or 20 percent to save people from getting fired. That makes his task quite noble. I think that Disney wanted Christopher Robin to have it both ways. They wanted him to be a hero and they wanted to have a lesson about the importance of being a kid. But Hook and Mary Poppins are about internal conflicts. That means the dynamic characters have to start off as bad guys and then become the good guys. The resolution of the movie is just hot trash. Robin's discovery of an idea that would save the company is phenomenally dumb and doesn't really work in any reality. A lot of people have to be open-minded to a hairbrained idea that is really just optimistic thinking. It actually had that moment where the protagonist looked at a piece of paper upside down and it all came together. But even the explanation of the upside down image is only tangentially related to the solution that was apparently staring him in the face the whole time. Yeah, it ties into the theme of the story, but in a way that is a bit of a stretch. No one really believes that would work, right? We are told that it would work, so it works. Boo and hiss.
But Christopher Robin is not a failure as a whole. Hiring Marc Forster gets you two things: a weak story but a great look to a picture. Winnie the Pooh and the rest of the gang look absolutely fantastic, with the exception of Tigger. Tigger looks like he's going to die because he looks positively ancient. (Note for something off topic: I got bored writing this so I watched the Pet Semetary trailer. Nothing like a complete tonal shift to get you writing again.) But Forster does make an absolutely gorgeous movie. This movie is cinematic as all get out and I'm very impressed by almost any still in the movie. I have to say that I'm particularly impressed with his very simple interpretation of the Hundred Acre Wood. London, like Mexico, has a very repetitive shooting style. If Mexico always has a sepia filter over it, London is always slightly blue and foggy. Before I forget, I think a lot of the cast of the The Detectorists are in this movie. I should probably find out why. I don't exactly know what makes a Marc Forster movie stand out to me. If I had to guess a lot of it probably comes through in the edit. I think that Forster loves staying in the moment, letting this pace slow down to a casual heartbeat. Inside of that scene, he tends to linger on textural details, like just staring at a bedpost within Restoration Hardware. From a visual perspective, the movie is just butter. Again, I don't think he did a ton with London, considering that the films only action sequence takes place in London. But the movie is about finding childhood, so those moments of Ewan McGregor in nature is what the movie really needed. Since the movie is for visual effects at the Academy Awards, it does crush on that front. Nothing felt at all uncanny valley for me. The decision to focus more on how the animals are stuffed animals and sometimes imperfect is what works. Piglet, for example, has almost a halo of fur about him, showing his age and the fact that he was well kept for. That is the kind of detail that I really like. The animals have a history. I'm not quite sure where these characters have been for the past two or so decades that the film covers. I always thought that Winnie the Pooh characters were stuffed animals that he simply interacted with in the woods, not that they actually only existed in the Hundred Acre Woods. I guess I should have suspected that considering that they all have houses. But this is all arbitrary. The point is that the special effects look great and they should because it's up for an Academy Award.
The movie is just blah to me. It both tries too hard in some elements while not putting the legwork in with other elements. I wanted to like it. But when I saw how bored my kids were getting, I then realized that I was pretty bored too. That didn't stop me from trying to convince my son that he had actually seen a good movie. I kept asking him what he liked most about the movie and he said he didn't like it. Yeah, maybe my opinion is influenced by my kids. But it should be. It's part of the viewing process for me. Besides, they have excellent tastes.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.