Winnie the Pooh didn’t always seem so slow and deliberate. But in “Christopher Robin,” he’s practically on a death march.
That’s because he and his 100 Acre Wood friends think their human leader has abandoned them. In truth, he has.
Now caught up with adulating and a job that resists fun, Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) is tasked with finding ways to cut costs at his luggage firm.
He’s an efficiency expert with a wife and daughter who don’t think they see him enough.
Pooh, meanwhile, philosophizes about everything and goes on a trek to find Christopher before Eeyore’s predictions come true. Heffalumps and Woozles are everywhere; clouds linger.
Directed by Marc Forster, this visit with the gang drags, largely because the man in charge has limited the bouncy fun to a brief turn by Tigger and a so-so race to get important papers back to Christopher.
In less respectful hands (say those of Tim Burton), “Christopher Robin” could have popped to life. Now, it looks like it’s a museum piece – and the story surrounding it isn’t all that complex.
Unlike “Paddington 2” (which added new stuffing to that bear), this take forgets the kid audience. It goes for adult tears and gets a fine performance from McGregor, while adding new voices to some of the characters. Jim Cummings still does right by Pooh, but Brad Garrett steals his handful of scenes as Eeyore. The chewed toy look is fitting as well, but “Christopher Robin” cries for complexity. As written, the simplicity of Pooh and friends seems calculated.
Throughout the film, Pooh philosophizes like he’s writing a book. He saves his best stuff for the one-on-ones with Christopher. “I’m lost,” he says. “But I found you, didn’t I?”
Christopher’s daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) has the smarts of Matilda and the pluck of Eloise. When she realizes dad doesn’t have his important papers, she figures out how to get a train, find his office and save the day. Christopher, Pooh and company follow and, soon, it’s a matter of speaking to the board of the Winslow luggage company. When Forster gets around to delivering the pitch, it’s hardly earth-shattering. “Mary Poppins” got Mr. Banks to come to the same conclusion, but his epiphany came with songs. “Christopher Robin” has bits and pieces of old favorites.
To be fair, “Christopher Robin” isn’t bad, just thin. Like the fur on your favorite stuffed animal, it’s a little patchy.