Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures
Sometimes beloved properties shouldn’t get the live action treatment.
If turning “Beauty and the Beast” into a live action adventure was a stretch, than Disney’s “Christopher Robin” is going to test its audience.
Not particularly memorable, nor as exciting or wholesome as its animated counterpart, “Christopher Robin” is the latest adaptation crawling out of the Disney woodwork, and it makes the case that perhaps some story books are better left closed.
Taking a break from his usual prestige fare, Ewan McGregor is front and center as the titular character, Christopher Robin, who is now a boring efficiency manager for a luggage company barking adult nonsense like “Dreams don’t come for free.” Long gone are the days of his childhood where he grew up near the Hundred Acre Wood, a sanctuary where he would sneak away and lose hours playing with his lovable and furry friends.
To recap those characters we have the always bright, bulgy and honey guzzling bear Winnie The Pooh (voiced by series regular Jim Cummings); the bouncing and singing tiger named Tigger (pronounced “T-I-double-G-er” also voiced by Cummings); the seldom, quaint and depressed donkey Eeyore (Brad Garrett); the wise Owl (Toby Jones); the diminutive and easily frightened pig Piglet (Nick Mohammed). And a few more like Kanga (Sophie Okonedo) and Roo (Sara Sheen) whom aren’t given an ample amount of screen time to make an impression. Kind’ve like the movie forgets they exist.
Sure, it’s nice to see and hear those voices again, but when you have Cummings doing the original and soothing Pooh voice, it makes non-series regulars like Jones and Garrett stick out like sore thumbs. The biggest culprit being Mohammed - a fine actor I’m sure - but he doesn’t have the voice or feel of the Piglet I know.
As for the story: the main crux of this tale involves these critters - (who, I’m sorry to say, look a tad ragged, and not as inviting in comparison to the animated escapades - nor do they look as colorful. Isn't Piglet supposed to be pink? Tigger, orange? They look as though they’ve been faded in the sun) - spilling over into Robin’s home in the boroughs of London. You can imagine Christopher’s surprise to see Pooh literally in his backyard, now an adult, as he’s busy prepping for an important business meeting which has taken him away from his wife (Hayley Atwell - completely underutilized) and daughter’s (Bronte Carmichael) weekend getaway.
Director Marc Forster’s film than shifts to operation get Pooh back to the Hundred Acre Wood (so he can find his friends) thus causing a ruckus of crafty shenanigans that was executed better in both “Paddington” films. Yes, Pooh is hungry all the time and Tigger uses his tail like a spring, but they aren’t given room to grow, and Robin feels like a pawn in his own story (why the movie wasn’t just called “Winnie The Pooh” is besides me). And while we’re on the subject of these characters, I would’ve appreciated some more Tigger, but he’s sidelined in favor of a plot that seems to meander to the finish line (it really drags in the middle portion of the film, leading to a snore of a climax that would put Eeyore to sleep).
Given Pooh is one of the more iconic and adorable creations out of the Disney vault, “Christopher Robin” isn’t a total waste. The film seems to soar when all the gleeful personalities sync up with themselves, and Pooh is left to spout out his quirky catchphrases. For those reasons, I wanted to reach out and hug my childhood pals, but too often - like the main character in the film - “Christopher Robin” hardly ever embraces its playful imagination.