What the World Needs Now
3 & ½ popcorns
By Michael S. Goldberger
Watching director Marc Forster’s delightfully sweet and optimistic “Christopher Robin,” wherein the title character now all grown up and in a funk reunites with Winnie the Pooh, his inspiring, childhood pal, my mind wandered. Not because the film wasn’t absorbingly influential, but because it was. There I was, back on Dewey Street in Newark, in front of David Stein’s house, where I found a dime and screamed of my bonanza, only to be assailed by Mrs. Stein, who claimed it was the dime David had lost. But that’s O.K.
Arriving in front of the 6-family house at 61 Dewey, crying about my fortune so quickly won and lost, there stood my Mom, as if a 6th sense told her I’d need her intervention. I’m not sure if it was a quarter or a dollar she gave me while stroking my forehead and rejecting Mrs. Stein’s claim as absurd. The Supreme Court had ruled in my favor, and issued compensatory damages. Mom was Themis, the blindfolded lady holding the scales of justice. There is fairness and love in life, always at the ready to override the world’s Mrs. Steins.
If you’ve had the good luck of a childhood full of dreams and idealism, and were shown firsthand the power of love, “Christopher Robin’s” story will reconstitute the emotions you felt back then, when anything was possible. While your youth may have not contained a talking Teddy Bear whose simple honesty spoke grand philosophy about friendship and the art of living, you had other icons. Alright, there were monsters in the closet, and at night clothes left on a chair looked like a tiger. But you wouldn’t be reading this if imaginary heroes hadn’t saved you.
Ewan McGregor’s Christopher Robin examples the disconnect that occurs between the young, dreamy you and the grownup you when life happens. Now a husband, efficiency expert at a fiscally troubled luggage manufacturer and father of a little girl who wishes Daddy would spend more time with her, he has forgotten how to have fun. Making things worse, he won’t be able to participate in the weekend jaunt to the country house his daughter Madeleine (Bronte Carmichael) had been so looking forward to all week. Work calls. One has to make a living.
Injecting a bit of a Dickensian articulation into the dilemma, Giles Winslow (Mark Gatiss), the disingenuous son of Old Man Winslow, patriarch of Winslow Luggage, is riding roughshod on our boy. Therefore, as fantasies go, it is an opportune time for Christopher to reconvene with Pooh and all the other living stuffed animals he knew before he imperceptibly transformed into a drudge. Borrowing from Lewis Carroll, whose epiphanies generally required going down a rabbit hole, the magic happens here by passing through a door in a tree.
Inspired by A.A. Milne and Ernest Shephard’s 1926 book, “Winnie-the-Pooh,” and gently put through the Disney thresher via a screenplay by Alex Ross Perry and Allison Schroeder, the combination of live action and CGI animation is as splendidly seamless as it gets. So much so, in fact, that once the fable is underway, you stop marveling at the technological process and just accept that Pooh is real…or at last as real as is necessary if the fuzzy fellow is to convincingly impart his kiddie version of Socratic wisdom.
Thus is created Filmdom’s perfect rainbow: Enthused moppets and the resultantly inspired adults who brung ‘em are mutually infatuated by the beautifully crafted, humanitarian message. Après theatre discussion while imbibing burgers, fries and, of course, McNuggets, should present a favorable opportunity for bonding and a morality-laced mini-civics lesson. That’s the wonderful importance of it…”Christopher Robin” exemplifying the time-honored partnership of entertainment and the teachings of civility, giftwrapped in magical literature.
Bombarded so persuasively by the potential of good, it is emblazoned on the brain and impressed in the soul that creativity never really exists in a vacuum. The more Pooh and his human charge explore the nature of love and friendship, the more the observer senses it as a witting response to the dark clouds of deceit, greed and vileness that threaten our hallowed institutions. I mean, c’mon, what would the toy bear think about the hate-spewing false prophets who’ve of late come to darken the landscape of our shining city on a hill?
Granted, the film’s emphasis on how we can be returned to a respectful and optimistic mindset that celebrates not our fearsomeness, but our goodness, could all be a coincidence. Or, it could be a certain dynamic at work. You know…the one when you’re terribly hungry but unable to stop due to some constraint, and the road is lined by diners beckoning, “Eat here!” Fact is, we’re indeed hungry…hungry for the truth that is so beautifully espoused by “Christopher Robin.”
“Christopher Robin,” rated PG, is a Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release directed by Marc Forster and stars Ewan McGregor, Bronte Carmichael and the voice of Jim Cummings. Running time: 104 minutes