Another outing for Pooh’s friend
Christopher Robin (PG)
PARENTS can be forgiven for thinking that they’ve only just done the bear. For no sooner has the Paddington sequel been enjoyed, quite possibly multiple times, when along comes the other one – Winnie The Pooh.
But as marmalade gives way to honey, and London for East Sussex woodland, so too classy, all-family entertainment is replaced by something strictly for youngsters – and they themselves may stifle a yawn.
Starring Ewan McGregor, Christopher Robin is a very oddly conceived film. For starters, it mustn’t be confused with last year’s Goodbye Christopher Robin, which was a serious look at how AA Milne’s writing of the Pooh books may have marred the real-life childhood of his son, Christopher Robin Milne.
This is about the fictional Christopher Robin and his animate toys, all of them now interacting with a bemused world outside the Hundred Acre Wood. Like the Paddington films, it’s live action combined with CGI; unlike Paddington, this story’s conjunction of real and fantastical never really gels.
Having left his friends for boarding school, then served in the Second World War, the adult Christopher (McGregor) is now a family man, working as an “efficiency manager” in a luggage company. He’s become dutiful and dull, overcome by work and responsibility, in danger of alienating both his wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and daughter Madeline. Pooh and co are a distant memory.
But then some spilt honey and a little magic bring man and bear back together. Through the reunion Christopher will rediscover his sense of fun and return his priorities to their proper place.
The moral is a standard one (the fathers in both Paddington and Mary Poppins need to learn the same lessons), so it’s the journey that counts. Unfortunately, with much of the screen time involving Christopher and Pooh stumbling around the woods, the man in a constant tizzy, the bear tumbling out his familiar pearls of dim-witted wisdom (“People say nothing’s impossible, but I do nothing every day”), the action quickly becomes wearisome.
Likewise, the confrontations between Christopher and his horrid boss (Mark Gatiss) are pretty feeble. It’s only when Pooh’s friends enter the fray, especially scene-stealing Tigger, that the film becomes comic and charming. Along with the appealing animation, with its stuffed-toy texture, it’s these collective scenes that will engage young audiences.
The talent behind the camera makes one wonder why there isn’t more substance. Director Marc Forster enjoyed greater success with Finding Neverland, about JM Barrie’s creation of another children’s classic, Peter Pan. And the writers all have an edge in their work that’s missing here. McGregor is as game as ever, with his innate exuberance nicely coming into play as the old Christopher starts to reassert himself.
The Equalizer 2 (15)
IN its way, The Equalizer 2 is just as outlandish as the Pooh. Denzel Washington reprises his role as Robert McCall, the former government intelligence operative turned vigilante, a man with a cuddly sense of community which, lamentably, he defends through extreme violence.
No film involving Washington is wholly unwatchable. Few actors make righteousness as interesting, and his McCall is a typically nuanced creation – OCD-suffering, sanctimonious, but a well-meaning and resourceful one-man fighting machine. The problems exist elsewhere, notably with script and direction that unsuccessfully strive to combine high moralising with gratuitous violence. Because of their particular play on audience emotions (who doesn’t want rapists to get their comeuppance?), vigilante films invariably leave a bad taste in the mouth.
The plot’s nothing: McCall’s only friend is murdered, leading him to add revenge to his enforcer’s schedule. The result is predictable at every turn, and surprisingly sluggish despite the shards of contrived and unpleasant action.
Christopher Robin is brought to life by Ewan McGregor