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Now in Theaters: Christopher Robin

By Shaun Szkolnik for the Tribune

  • Christopher Robin
  • Released in 2018
  • Directed by Marc Forster
  • Screenplay by Alex Ross Perry, Tom McCarthy, Alison Schroeder
  • Staring Ewan McGregor, Haley Atwell, Bronte Carmicheal
  • Rated PG
  • Score: B-

Nearly 30 years ago Steven Spielberg and Robin Williams teamed up to do what men of a certain age tend to do when it is realized that their youth had slipped away; they addressed it in the least practical way possible.

For most men of a normal station in life that means buying a sports car, getting a membership to the gym and trying out a rinse out hair solution that is guaranteed to banish the gray.  Steven Spielberg and Robin Williams were not most men.  They were beyond the normal means and beyond the normal talent.  So, they made a movie about a 40-year-old Peter Pan reluctantly returning to Neverland to save his kids, reclaim his family (both figurative and literally), dispatch the hooked monster of his childhood nightmares, get hit on by pixie Julia Roberts and find the joy of life that somehow got lost in the shuffle of office papers, deadlines and success.  The movie was a smash hit, both critically and commercially.

You can’t blame Christopher Robin for mining the same well.  You can’t blame it either for coming up short of the mark.  Hook was lightening in a bottle.

As with Hook the premise of Christopher Robin is that of a middle-aged man, whom was once a hero of our collective childhood imaginations, being drawn back into the past in a heroes’ journey that returns him to where it all began.

In this rendering the protagonist has been very nearly defeated by the machine -first by boarding school, then by the War and finally by his job.  He spends the last reserves of his humanity trying to save the careers of his coworkers which, for some reason or other, requires that he ignore his family while setting his child along the same soul-crushing path that has consumed him.  It is pretty bleak stuff.  It doesn’t get much lighter when the talking stuffed animals show up.

When the talking stuffed animals do show up, specifically Winnie the Pooh, he is drawn back to the hundred-acre wood and while setting on a quest to ostensibly save his childhood toys/friends he ends up saving himself.  It is right about this point that, much like the title character, the movie loses its way.  With Hook the adventure is fun, the mission is necessary, the transformation is demanded.  By contrast Christopher Robin’s motives never seem that urgent and his moment of epiphany is so flimsy that a meaningful character arc jut cannot be forged from it.

From there movie ambles on to its end.  An end that is fairly satisfying, but there is no sense in spoiling that other than to say that the day is saved by a micro application of Keynesian economics.  Seriously, that happens.

Despite having a story that never really develops and being a film that never really finds its rhythm there are plenty of moments of genuine hilarity and pathos in this movie.  When it is good it is very, very good; but it just isn’t good as often as it needs to be.

All in all, it is a serviceable feature that will hold a certain appeal to nostalgia buffs, people with a hankering for sepia tone and possibly even fans of Michel Gondry.   However, if you’re looking for something to show to the kids you would be better off renting Hook instead.

 

 

 

 

 

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