Tig­ger warn­ing

A tale of Christo­pher Robin’s midlife cri­sis risks turn­ing adult view­ers a bit Eey­ore.

New Zealand Listener - - BOOKS & CULTURE - By James Robins CHRISTO­PHER ROBIN di­rected by Marc Forster

More than 20 years ago, Toy Story pon­dered what hap­pened when you left your child­hood play­things alone for a day: they had a rare old time. But what hap­pens when you leave them alone for good? Christo­pher Robin, a sort of se­quel to AA Milne’s fa­mous Win­nie-the-Pooh books, not to be con­fused with bi­o­graph­i­cal drama Good­bye Christo­pher Robin of late last year, opens with this very ques­tion. And the re­sults are rather dis­tress­ing.

Tak­ing its cue from Milne’s 1928 story The House at Pooh Cor­ner, it be­gins with young Christo­pher (Or­ton O’Brien) and his pals shar­ing a farewell feast in the Hun­dred Acre Wood. He is about to leave for school, and later, World War II. In his ab­sence, a gloomy fog de­scends over his toy friends: Tig­ger loses his bounce, Piglet grows more cow­ardly, Eey­ore goes from glum to out­right de­pres­sive and poor Pooh wan­ders aim­lessly, all hunny gone, pin­ing for his old friend in a tone (pro­vided by long­time Pooh vo­cal­ist Jim Cum­mings) that can only be de­scribed as deeply pained.

We all know there’s noth­ing more piti­ful than an aban­doned teddy bear, but the first act of Christo­pher Robin feels like tak­ing a beloved pet to the vet one last time.

The mo­rose­ness doesn’t stop with Pooh and the other toys; Christo­pher him­self grows up (played by Ewan McGregor) to be­come a desk-bound “ef­fi­ciency man­ager” at a lug­gage com­pany, of all things. His wife, Eve­lyn (Hay­ley Atwell), is left to stew at home, while their daugh­ter Madeleine (Bronte Carmichael) is threat­ened with ban­ish­ment to board­ing school.

It’s set in a real-world, suit­ably nos­tal­gic mid-cen­tury Lon­don. Milne’s adored char­ac­ters are dig­i­tally ren­dered with their fluffy fur faded and frayed. Their grubby state only adds to the som­bre tone. And this is sup­posed to be a fam­ily film?

Di­rec­tor Marc Forster has taken a chil­dren’s story and added a de­gree of ma­tu­rity seen be­fore in Find­ing Nev­er­land, about Peter Pan au­thor JM Barrie. But here, the ma­tu­rity be­comes a slog of ne­glect and de­spair. Young view­ers have to wait a long while be­fore any fun kicks in and, by the end, adults may feel they’ve been sub­jected to a 90-minute guilt trip.

Re­mem­ber that manky pen­guin toy you now keep at the back of the closet? Or the buzzy bee boxed up in the garage? You’d best go home right now and give them a big hug or else you’ll be left to pon­der the decades of tor­ment they’ve been sub­jected to.

Good­bye Christo­pher Robin had its share of dark­ness, too. It didn’t shy away from Christo­pher’s re­jec­tion of his fa­ther’s cre­ations or their trou­bled re­la­tion­ship. How­ever, it was a del­i­cate and charm­ing film, un­like this das­tardly Woo­zle of a movie, which trudges along in Christo­pher’s grown-up foot­prints but takes us nowhere new.

IN CIN­E­MAS SEPTEM­BER 20

Christo­pher Robin: Pooh and friends ex­pe­ri­ence aban­don­ment is­sues.

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