Review: “Christopher Robin”

Christopher Robin grows up but still has some important lessons to learn in the charming Christopher Robin (Disney; 2018).

Disney has reinvented its venerable Winnie the Pooh franchise once again, this time turning the stuffed animals from the A.A. Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood into 3D computer generated characters that (somehow) co-exist in the human world. The film answers a couple of interesting questions in the process—what happens to Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, et al, when Christopher Robin grows up, and what if Christopher Robin loses his way as an adult?

Set in England, Christopher Robin is now a hardworking war veteran employed by a luggage company in London. His job is demanding and stressful and it pulls him away from spending more time with his wife and daughter. Adhering to narrative rules that would be home in any Narnia book, Winnie the Pooh is able to find his way to London and quietly and gently begins to set things straight.

Image ©️ Disney

Ewan McGregor does a great job playing the war-torn and world-weary adult Christopher Robin. The lovely and talented (and underused in this film) Hayley Atwell plays his wife Evelyn, and Bronte Carmichael plays their daughter Madeline, who is the character suffering the most in the film with her dad lost in the business world and emotionally MIA at home. Voice actor Jim Cummings is back in the role as both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. Brad Garrett expertly steps into the role of Eeyore. The rest of the cast is excellent, too.

This gentle, deliberate film never takes itself too seriously or delivers its message with a heavy hand or a zany punch. Instead, director Marc Forester uses a more old fashioned tone which some might view as slow, but I found it be refreshing and endearing. So much so, that this film will probably appeal more to adults than children. Basically, it just made me want to hug all of these photo-realistic CG stuffed animals and return to the innocence of childhood—a place full of clarity, goodness, and wonder.

Disney fans should also be happy with the new songs written by Richard Sherman, the surviving member of the great Sherman Brothers songwriting duo who wrote the classic songs for Disney’s original Winnie the Pooh shorts. Make sure to stay through the end credits.

Christopher Robin has been rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for “some action.”

My score: 4 out of 5 stars

As an added bonus, here’s the cute one-sheet poster from the U.S. release of the film.

Image ©️ Disney

Review: “A Wrinkle in Time”

Disney’s most recent adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time is an artistic, purposeful, and meaningful one (along with a few wrinkles here and there).

Based on the 1962 Newberry Award-winning fantasy young adult novel by American author Madeleine L’Engle, the film tells the story of Meg Murry (played by Storm Reid), a high-school aged girl who is unsure of her place in the world and who is still grieving the loss of her scientist father (played by Chris Pine) who has been missing for many years.

When Meg’s little brother Charles Wallace (played by Deric McCabe) introduces her to strange supernatural friends named Mrs. Whatsit (played by Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (played by Mindy Kaling), and, later, Mrs. Which (played by Oprah Winfrey), Meg, Charles Wallace, and Meg’s school friend Calvin (played by Levi Miller) embark on a journey through time and space to rescue Meg’s father who is being held against his will on another planet by a nefarious, dark force.

The cover of the edition of A WRINKLE IN TIME that I read and enjoyed when I was a kid. (And for what it’s worth, the Centaur-like creatures don’t make an appearance in this filmed adaptation.)

This is the Walt Disney Studios’ second attempt at filming A Wrinkle in Time. A made-for-TV version was completed in 2003 and was pretty much DOA, showing once on ABC in 2004 and then being relegated to home video. When asked about what she thought about the adaptation, Madeline L’Engle said “I’ve glimpsed it…I expected it to be bad, and it is.”

Director Ava DuVernay (Selma) and screenwriter Jennifer Lee (writer and co-director of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Frozen) took on an ambitious and challenging task in adapting again this beloved yet complicated book into a feature film. The results are mixed–the pacing is uneven, some of the characters’ motives don’t seem quite right (or at least not in line with logic and/or the source material), and the characters’ interactions with the excessive and sometimes sloppy CGI occasionally tipped the scales into confusing and/or ridiculous territory.

Storm Reid as Meg and Levi Miller as Calvin in A WRINKLE IN TIME. (Image ©️ Disney)

However, Ava DuVernay and her team have crafted overall a wonderful work of art. Each scene in the film had a very noticeable sense of intimacy, of artistry, and of care. Each costume, from Meg’s simple flannel shirt to Mrs. Which’s architecturally inspired hair styles, provided visual interest, uniqueness, and wonder. Each set and setting were created carefully and with skill and expertise. And the timeless themes of familial love, fighting darkness with light, being courageous, and being yourself are presented with honesty and with a deft touch.

While the filmmakers and others are calling this interpretation of A Wrinkle in Time a black girl-power movie, I think of it more as a kid-power movie–a film where all children can start thinking about the importance of using their brains to solve problems and of using their hearts to fight the darkness both within and without themselves.

(L-R) Mindy Kaling is Mrs. Who, Oprah Winfrey is Mrs. Which, and Reese Witherspoon is Mrs. Whatsit in A WRINKLE IN TIME. (Image ©️ Disney)

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

As an added bonus, check out this cool poster made for the film’s exclusive IMAX screenings.

(Image ©️ Disney)