‘Christopher Robin’ provides good cinematography, weak plot
One nice thing about reviewing films is that it gives you an excuse to make note of new names to watch for in the future.
In the case of “Christopher Robin,” the name I filed away was Matthias Koenigswieser, who handled the marvelous cinematography. Together with lovely lifelike animals from the world of Winnie-the-Pooh, Koenigswieser’s camerawork generates a visual tone that’s a joy to behold.
The rest of the film, however, is a trifle thin.
It’s the second live-action movie about the titular bear-lover in less than a year; but this is very different from last September’s “Goodbye Christopher Robin,” which focused on how A. A. Milne’s popularity nearly wrecked his son’s childhood.
In this new film from Disney, Ewan McGregor plays a grown-up Christopher Robin, who spends too much time at work and must learn to reconnect with his childhood in order to be a better father. And that’s pretty much the entire plot.
Like I said, a little thin.
There’s no question the movie holds your interest; it’s just that you never feel like you’re getting much to chew on — especially since the theme of “don’t work so hard / more time with family” has practically been done to death at this point.
What succeeds in spite of this is the cadre of animals Robin interacts with; visually, they’re a seamless blend of actual dolls and computerized imagery — and the voicing is a dream come true.
The great Sterling Holloway — who established forever the raspy, wistful, melancholy sound of Pooh’s speech — has been gone since 1992; but you wouldn’t know it to hear Jim Cummings’ uncanny vocal work in this new movie. Similarly excellent are Brad Garrett, perfectly cast as Eeyore, and — surprise, surprise — Cummings again as the lovable Tigger.
The movie barely stays on the rails as these creatures interact with a variety of humans. It’s one thing for them to walk and talk with Robin, who loved them as a kid; and later exchanges with a 10-year-old child are not too big a stretch. But when other adults start hearing them talk — well, it’s kind of like “Christopher Robin” wants to be two movies: one is a heavy-handed, message-driven piece about adults who’ve grown up too much, and the other is a whimsical cartoon-like movie about a childhood fantasy world. The fact that these two mesh fairly well without fully breaking the movie’s spell is something of a miracle — and a tribute to both the acting and the tender loving care that went into the production design.
No doubt, much credit also goes to director Marc Forster, whose resume covers a variety of genres, including James Bond, “Finding Neverland,” “Kite Runner,” “World War Z,” “Stranger Than Fiction,” “Stay” and “Monster’s Ball.”
He’s one of the few who could have made this unlikely movie work as well as it does.