One of the most well-known groups of characters in literature is Christopher Robin and his friends that live in the Hundred-Acre Wood. A.A. Milne’s words and E.H. Shepard’s illustrations have taken an iron hold on the childhoods of countless of us. I grew up watching Winnie the Pooh on TV, later finding the books. I am a child of the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and there was a LOT of Winnie the Pooh for me to enjoy. Not only that, but my aunt, with whom I watched the movie that’s the center of this review, has always loved Winnie the Pooh. Why am I saying all this? I guess I want to set some context for the mindset that I was in as I walked into Christopher Robin.
Christopher Robin tells the story of what happened after the residents of the Hundred-Acre wood have to say goodbye to their good friend. The opening minutes of the movie shift between live action and E.H. Shepard style illustrations as Christopher Robin leaves the Hundred-Acre wood to go to boarding school and grow up. The movie even goes so far as to provide some narration in the same style that A.A. Milne used to introduce chapters in the books. It shows him growing up, falling in love, getting married, fighting in World War II, and up to his current job with a luggage company in London.
When the movie begins in earnest, we see that Christopher Robin has grown up into a rather jaded adult. He’s dealing with stress at work and neglecting his wife, Evelyn, and his daughter, Madeline. He breaks his promise to go with them to the country to spend his weekend working on fixing the budget for the suitcase company to avoid layoffs. It’s then when Winnie the Pooh finds his way to his old friend’s side. He needs Christopher Robin’s help to find the others from the Hundred-Acre woods, as he can’t find any of them.
Christopher Robin stretches out a standard, simple Winnie the Pooh plot to a full-length movie. That being said, it’s something of a b-plot, so it doesn’t have much of an opportunity to overstay its welcome. Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin need to find their friends. The overarching plot is Christopher Robin trying to avoid having to fire people that work under him. Really, the goal that he has is to find a better work-life balance.
That’s something that really stood out to me in Christopher Robin. There’s a trope that I’ve seen criticized in movies, and I have to agree with that criticism. There’s a plotline in which a parent has to work long hours and doesn’t have much time for their family. The working parent is somewhat villainized without much explanation for why they work so much. /Christopher Robin/ doesn’t villainize Christopher Robin for needing to work during the weekend. He has real stakes, and he has to make some difficult decisions. He wants to spend more time with Evelyn and Madeline. He knows that he’s in a difficult position. He wants to go to the country with his family. He wants to save everybody’s job. He can’t do both.
Christopher Robin still works for his company at the end of the movie. He doesn’t need to give up the job that supports his family to get back in touch with his childish side. We see Christopher Robin take his family to the Hundred-Acre wood for a visit. We also see Pooh, Eeyore, and Piglet relaxing on the beach in England during a credits scene. This seems to imply that there is some back-and-forth visitation between the two worlds. In a nostalgic movie like this, I would expect the Hundred-Acre wood to be “better” than staying in London. If it was, there would be some off-putting implications to that. It would imply that abandoning his responsibility to his family would be the right decision.
Despite his redemption later, Christopher Robin is a little too jaded in the beginning of the movie. I understand that he is meant to learn and re-discover his imagination. Still he starts off almost mean-spirited. It’s not enough to make his character development completely unbelievable, but it’s still unpleasant watching Christopher Robin actually yelling at Winnie the Pooh.
Additionally, I think that the script could have benefitted from one more go-through with a fine-toothed comb. There’s a character by the name of Cecil that lives next door to the Robin family (I assume that Robin is his surname here, but it’s never actually confirmed). He wants to play gin rummy with Christopher Robin. That’s his entire character. I don’t think that he was necessary, and he probably should have been cut out.
Overall, Christopher Robin is a great movie. It’s a good movie for someone that grew up with Winnie the Pooh and wants to have a fun experience with some new ideas. The movie has a creative take on some classic characters and I had a great time watching it.