Doing nothing often leads to the very best something.” — Winnie the Pooh
By doing the cinematic equivalent of “nothing,” Disney creates a movie that is the very best of “somethings.” In their new film “Christopher Robin,” Disney rejects the complex formula of its live-action remakes for a simple, nostalgic film that is every bit as beautiful as it is poignant.
“Christopher Robin” follows its titular character through time from the playful boy in the Hundred Acre Wood to the work-obsessed World War II veteran. Christopher, played by the ever-dashing Ewan McGregor, finds himself back from the war and caught between obligations to work and to his family.
Enter the adorable Pooh Bear.
Pooh, voiced by Jim Cummings, sets out to find Christopher in London when he cannot find the rest of his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. What ensues is an enjoyable adventure, one that is less silly than joyful.
Up to the point where Pooh finds him once again, Christopher is a sullen and serious man, burdened with adult life and responsibilities. The appearance of Pooh marks a shift. We see Christopher begin to open up and become increasingly childlike as the film progresses. Pooh’s simplicity and his ability to see the joy in everyday life causes Christopher to let down his guard. Soon, he’s frolicking through the woods as if he was a child once again.
The film recaptures the magic of the classic Hundred Acre Wood. There’s the bridge where Pooh and Christopher race sticks, and the houses of Piglet, Owl, and Rabbit. The characters stay true to A.A. Milne’s concepts: Tigger sings his introductory song, Piglet is scared of everything, Eeyore is constantly sad. Disney does not try to reinvent A.A. Milne’s beloved characters, but instead leaves them as they were, albeit with a bit of spiffing up courtesy of CGI.
It’s not just the nostalgia that makes “Christopher Robin” work. It’s the lack of opulence and over-the-top sets, costumes, and side plots that draw the viewer in. Using a muted color palette and gentle score, the film is simple much like Winnie the Pooh himself. No shot of the film sees harsh lighting. Rather the scenes are bathed in sunrises and sunsets while others are wrapped in layers of clouds and fog suitable for the English countryside in which it is set.
“Christopher Robin” is never ridiculous. It is just about a boy who needs reminding of what matters in life, and a silly old bear who shows Christopher that the secret to life is finding the joy of simple things in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.