I have to admit, I’m getting tired of irony lately. From the smug fourth wall breaking in Deadpool to the internet becoming increasingly self-referential and meaningless with its in jokes, I’ve started to crave sincerity in the media I consume. Characters who mean what they say, an original idea put forward, and most importantly a sense that the people involved in the creation of whatever movie, TV show or web series it may be actually care about what they’re making. And while Christopher Robin may not be original in the slightest, it at least gave me some hope that there are still filmmakers at major studios in Hollywood who aren’t too cool for a genuine depiction of emotion.
A sadder, more adult look at nostalgia than candy-coloured cash ins like Trolls or The Smurfs, Christopher Robin tells the story of the titular characters rather boring adulthood, and how he’s lost his childlike appreciation for the world around him after leaving the Hundred Acre Wood behind many years prior. But when Winnie the Pooh comes back into his life, he starts to question the priorities of his serious, ‘adult’ world. Though ‘Dad, you work too much!’ isn’t exactly an uncommon arc for a family film, and the plot is largely predictable (you all know the answer to whether he’ll still tolerate his soul-crushing job at the end), the inevitable plot points are handled in a charming, subtle way. Animation and family features have leaned recently into the overblown and intense; it’s nice to experience some low stakes for a change.
I’ll be honest with you – going into this film, I detested the designs of Pooh and friends that had been chosen. Whilst they certainly did the job of looking like the kind of decades old teddy your dad still keeps in his wardrobe, their black beady eyes and seeming lack of emotion in the trailer was somewhat disturbing to me. But once the film started with its gorgeously illustrated opening credits and the creatures were reintroduced at the ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ party, my worries melted away. Rather than bouncing off the walls like Minions, they gently plod from place to place, with subtlety in their expressions to match, very similarly to Paddington in his frankly superior films. And to be fair, the soft and worn texture of their ‘fur’ is stunning; you never doubt for a second that the always charming Ewan McGregor is talking to a genuine living toy.
Everything about this film feels hazy and slow, from the sluggish pacing, to the musings on the benefits of doing nothing, to scenes that consist of simple train rides or book reading. While this is undeniably very inconsequential, and won’t leave you reeling as you exit the cinema, it served for me at least as a welcome change of pace from other blockbusters this year. The stakes are low, but the appeal is high, and if you go into Christopher Robin expecting a refreshing break from your own hectic life, you won’t be disappointed.