Written by Michael Clawson
It turns out that 2018 has room for not one, but two big-hearted, animated movie bears. But if Paddington 2 feels like a snazzy pop-up book (much like the one that drives its plot) with its punchy primary colors and effervescent set pieces, Christopher Robin feels like a dusty, weathered old picture book that you’d find on a shelf at your grandma’s house. With a muted color palette and sleepy rhythm, it plays like a bedtime story.
Upon realizing that Jon Brion scored the film, I was eagerly awaiting any sonic eccentricities he might have to offer (Brion’s score from Punch-Drunk Love is one of my all-time favorites). Alas, Christopher Robin doesn’t sound like anything we haven’t heard before. Except, of course, for the voice work that brings these beloved animal characters to life. Voiced by Jim Cummings, Pooh’s voice is gentle, sweet, and a tad nasally, and is the perfect register for dozens of smile-inducing Poohisms (the audience I saw this with never tired of them, the giggles never letting up). As affecting as the voices is the animation for Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and team, who truly look like they’re of the world their inhabiting (all too often, I find that animated characters in live-action environments look like raindrops on a Gore-Tex jacket; they’re incompatible with the surfaces and look like they might slip off the screen at any moment). Cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser does great work, using the greys, soft pinks, and light browns of overcast London to lend the film its timeless look.
Diminishing the film’s warmth are the plot mechanics through which Pooh and the gang re-enter Christopher’s life. The film’s conception of an overworked, distracted husband and father who needs to be reminded of the importance of family by his inner child was dull and cliché. I desperately wish we had spent more time in the Hundred Acre Wood, perhaps interacting more with Heffalumps and Woozles, or just listening to more playful banter between Pooh and Christopher. Nevertheless, the film works as a tender ode to make-believe play, one with characters I’d happily revisit (even though every time I saw the red balloon, I couldn’t help but think about Pennywise the clown lurching in the fog).
Christopher Robin Trailer
Christopher Robin is currently available to rent and purchase on most major VOD Platforms.