Love­able Pooh bear men­tor to his mas­ter

Midwest Times - - THE EDGE - Vicky Roach

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.

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