Loveable Pooh bear mentor to his master
Golden Globe-winning actor Ewan McGregor upstaged by a stuffed toy. Who would have thought? Of course, the animated animal in question is Winnie the Pooh in the G-rated Christopher Robin.
But while everybody’s favourite Scotsman is struggling valiantly to inject life into his one-note sad-sack character, A.A. Milne’s beloved teddy bear waddles in from left frame and steals the show.
It’s amazing what a CGI character can do with a pair of beady eyes, a mono-brow that arches with eloquent economy and a mouth that barely moves.
Jim Cummings’ deadpan vocal performance completes the effect.
“That’s a silly explanation,” says the grown-up Christopher Robin (McGregor), who is short of both time and temper.
“Why, thank you,” replies Pooh, sweetly, and with impeccable understatement.
When it comes to its good-natured star, Disney’s live action Christopher Robin “sequel” cannot be faulted.
Paddington, whose blockbusting cinematic exploits may well have been the impetus for this literary revival, had better sight gags to work with.
But Pooh gets Milne’s dialogue, and his delivery is disarming.
Directed by Marc Foster (Quantum of Solace, Finding Neverland), this eponymously titled family adventure tells a cautionary tale about what happens to dreamy young English boys once they hit adolescence — and beyond.
Boarding school introduces Robin to some hard truths about life in the “real world”.
Adult life consolidates those lessons, turning the once-imaginative youngster into a browbeaten workhorse for whom duty and responsibility are paramount.
When his superior (Mark Gatiss) — who just so happens to be the big boss’ son — insists his middle manager find further efficiencies in the suitcase factory or lay off staff, Robin is forced to pull out of a long-planned weekend in the country with his wife Evelyn and daughter Madeline (Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael).
As his spark slowly goes out, so does the colour in the parallel world of his childhood imagination — which is why Pooh comes to London to find him.
Returning his imaginary friend to the Hundred Acre Wood, Robin slowly begins to reassess what’s important.
Yes, well, even self-occupied Eeyore saw that one coming.
But Pooh’s innocent philosophy hits the sweet spot — even McGregor’s earnest plodder benefits from his proximity to the film’s real star.
The scene in which the stuffed toy plays dead is priceless.
There’s also a timely political message about workers’ rights and the distribution of wealth, and what seems like an important reminder to the parents of increasingly hot-housed school children: “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something,” the young Christopher Robin tells Pooh.
Ewan McGregor opposite Winnie the Pooh in Christopher Robin.