“Oh Pooh. You’re not a bear of very little brain. You’re a bear of humongous heart.”
Ewan McGregor as a middle-aged, overworked Christopher Robin says this to his former childhood toy, but he may as well have been describing this movie. Heavy on sentiment and nonsense, light on plot or fresh character takes this isn’t a bad movie. It’s quite literally the cinematic equivalent of hugging your childhood stuffed animal or security blanket, remembering when times were simpler and having a twinge of midlife crisis.
The original Disney The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh begins with a narrator telling us “This could be the room of any small boy. But it just so happens to belong to a boy named Christopher Robin.” This movie — a live action sequel to the previous Pooh catalog — could be about the lost childhood of any middle aged man, but it just so happens to belong to a man named Christopher Robin. In post-war England, he finds himself under the thumb of a lazy and unscrupulous boss (Mark Gatiss) who forces him to work long hours and weekends — forgoing a planned holiday with his wife (the always lovely Hayley Atwell) and precocious daughter. This is familiar Disney material– father loses his way, and needs some magical element to help him reclaim his childhood wonder and imagination.
Meanwhile, deep in the Hundred Acre Wood of Christopher Robin’s childhood imagination, Pooh awakens after a long rest and can’t find his friends. Instead, he travels to London to fetch Christopher Robin from the tedium of planning an important meeting and off they go to find ‘Tigger, Kanga, Roo, Piglet, Eeyore, Owl, and Rabbit. And of course, wackiness ensues, and they have t fight nasty heffalumps and woozles and learn to have childlike wonder again.
A lot of praise needs to go to Ewan McGregor for his work here, as the entire film rests on his shoulders. In much of the movie, it’s just him acting against an imaginary stuffed animal. He’s really charming and delightful, and the supporting cast are almost equally as god. The voice cast here playing the stuffed animals are also great. Legendary voice artist Jim Cummings basically is Pooh and Tigger, having inhabited these roles for decades now. There’s also some brilliant casting of Brad Garrett as Eeyore and Peter Capaldi as Rabbit, but they are sadly underused as most of the film concentrates only on Christopher Robin and Pooh.
As stated previously, this is a script of very little brain, and very much predictability. But it’s pure, uncut Disney nostalgia straight from the source. For those who grew up with Pooh and are bringing their children or grandchildren to see this, you will enjoy this in direct relation to how much nostalgia you have for this particular property or classic Disney in general. It will generally feel like this movie was almost made more for adults than children– the message almost certainly is. And for true Disney superfans, stay through the credits to see and hear Richard Sherman (who co-write the original Pooh songs and half of the classic Disney songbook) perform a new song he wrote specifically for this film. He’ still got it.
Someone needed to remind these folks they were making a children’s movie, as the moral center seems more focused on shaming workaholic middle aged people. And the tone of the film for its first act is extremely dour. It finally picks up in predictable fashion and ends strong with a lot of heart. But with Paddington 2 having hit earlier this year, it’s unfortunate that Disney’s return to this familiar territory didn’t land better as it can’t stack up to the more charming sequel. There are also several Disney movies with this same basic idea, and this compares even less favorably against those.
3.5 out of 5 stars