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MOVIE REVIEW: CHRISTOPHER ROBIN
The new movie, Christopher Robin, starring Ewan McGregor and released on August 3rd, captures the heartwarming spirit of the Winnie the Pooh collected works from the perspective of adulthood. The film contains, more or less, the character of the Winnie-the-Pooh world, but also takes the opportunity to insert some new insights, which, while good, compromised some details.
The overall plot of Christopher Robin was of the hero standing up to his enemy with the truth about work vs. play, and thereby defeating him. The character of the older Christopher Robin, though mainly misguided by the pressures of his enemy and the effects of growing up, remained genuinely good-hearted and kind. In both plot and character, this movie embodied a purity to it. From a personal view, it was the kind of movie that washed all the dregs of mean-spiritedness, over-sexualizing, and, moreover, the delight in such things, off of you. I was surprised when Pooh, when first seeing Christopher's wife, described her, he did not say, "She looks pretty," but instead, "She looks . . . kind." Kindness and inner moral qualities like it, rather than physical appearance, became the epitomy of what is beautiful. In the end, the innocent joy of childhood (even life) rekindled, and the recognition that people matter more than money or work, saved the day. One could say it was a political and economical message. I think the philosophy of "doing nothing to achieve something" is meant to mean, "make room for play so your work may thrive."
On the other hand, the movie lacked in several ways. The characters of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends seemed too flat, mere caricatures of a long-standing stereotype rather than the beings with depth that they had been in other venues, such as the Disney tv series "The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh." However, taking perhaps partly from this series, the characters did continue to take on their standard functions: Piglet the loyal, kindly, fearful friend of Pooh, Tigger, full of energy and thrill as always, Owl, the one who soliloquizes about his ancestors' anecdotes, and Eeyore, the one who speaks truth under a gloomy disposition.
I believe that these minor characters are reflected into the "real world," in that each of Christopher Robin's co-workers carry the likeness of each of Pooh's friends. Just as Pooh has a duty to be friends with his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, Christopher Robin also has a duty to be friends with his co-workers. The necessity of friendship carries through in both childhood and adulthood.
Pooh was not quite himself. His frequent comments on wanting food were perhaps overdone, and his character was noticeably different from all other depictions. Not quite the cheerful, naive bear he'd been before, this Pooh was almost melancholy, waxing on contemplative. The movie took many opportunities for Pooh to insert a philosophical axiom. Although it was the revival of Chistopher Robin's boyhood spirit that sparked the solution to the plot, there was a sense that it had indeed been lost forever, and Pooh knew it, and had grown older too.
Likewise, the audience viewed Pooh's movements-of-little-brain not through a happy-go-lucky, comedic eye, but rather in the frustrated perspective of the adult Christopher. Winnie-the-Pooh's mishaps come off as a nuisance, a rather sad, unfortunate bother, rather than a reason to laugh with affection. I am comparing with The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and even the original book by A.A. Milne.
Though I mentioned that the character of Christopher Robin was overall a good one, it fell short in two ways. First, he overcomplicated matters. When his wife asked him why he could not spend time with his family and continued to neglect them, he could have answered very simply: "Because the company is in trouble and if I don't solve the problem this weekend I could get fired." But instead he stutters, at a loss for what to say. However, I can't blame him completely for his confusion, since we all have those times when a simple matter seems a very much complicated one. He also took a philosophic turn in an answer to Pooh's question as to why he can't talk in London's streets. The easy answer might have been "Because talking stuffed animals are absolutely terrifying to people here," but Chistopher instead had a brief conversation with Pooh on the problem of discrimination. Granted, it was a perfect opportunity, though it was a touch obvious in my mind.
Secondly, Christopher Robin's life is very unlike the historic one; this adult Christopher has been fashioned particularly for this fictional story, set in a historic period. As for artistic liscence in creating a cohesive story, I think this deviation from reality is okay, but if the producers intended it to seem historically accurate, as they set the story in the actual historic time period, I'd expect the historic character to be consistent with that.
Overall, this was one of the best movies I have seen in a long while, because of its joy in innocent things. It was a delightful and logical (if I may describe it so) combination of fantasy and reality, with a cohesive plot that more or less successfully recaptured the classic nature of Winnie-the-Pooh, and can uplift as well as sober the audience.
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