Doing Nothing Often Leads to the Very Best Something: A Christopher Robin Review
I grew up watching Winnie the Pooh; specifically, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Pooh Bear was as much a part of my childhood as my own teddy bear.
So when I saw the first trailer for Christopher Robin, I knew I had to see it, if nothing else than for the nostalgia of it; after all, Pooh had never been given the live action treatment like so many other cartoon characters (and frankly, Disney’s attempt looked way better than Garfield: The Movie).
I was expecting a good movie, aptly filled with nostalgia and childhood memories. I wasn’t expecting anything particularly mind-blowing, which is why, probably, I opted to skip it in theaters, and why I waited further for it to be available on Netflix, which it is as of yesterday.
What I wasn’t expecting was a thought-provoking look at our lives as adults, and a lesson to be learned. Silly old bear.
What if Christopher Robin Grew Up?
If you need a description of what the film is about, think of it as Hook in the Hundred Acre Woods. And had I known that, I probably would have run to theaters; Hook remains one of my all-time favorite movies. But the titular Christopher Robin shares many similarities with Hook’s Peter Pan: both are iconic childhood characters who dared to grow up and forget everything that made them important to us. Both have forgotten what it was like to have fun, and have become work-obsessed, family- shunning adults who stress about everything.
With Peter Banning (read: Pan), it takes a trip back to Neverland to remember how to fly; with Christopher Robin, it takes a very special teddy bear showing up in the park outside his house.
I always loved the oddball concept that brought Hook to life: What if Peter Pan grew up? As I’ve contemplated the sheer existence of the movie, I’d come to the conclusion that Hook is not the type of movie that would get made today, a “What if” movie that takes a resolute fact of a character (Peter Pan never grows up) and applies it to a Steven Spielberg production (and casts Glenn Close as a bearded pirate). It’s a gamble, and a purely 90’s concept, but it was one that worked. And finally someone has come back to the format with an equally impressive take: What if Christopher Robin grew up?
Well, like Peter, he finds himself drowning in work to the point that his paperwork is more important than his family. Unlike Peter, however, it doesn’t take the villain kidnapping his family to bring him around; it’s his friend coming to help him.
And here’s where the nostalgia kicks in high gear.
A Bear of Little Brains, but of Big Heart
It helps that Jim Cummings, who has voiced Winnie the Pooh for as long as I have been aware of the character, lends his voice to this movie, too. It would have been easy for Disney to want a high-profile actor to fill the role (see Bill Murray as Garfield), but falling back onto the staple of the franchise- even when the CG is completely realistic rather than cartoonish (see, again, Garfield: The Movie)- is genius. Even in the first trailer, when Pooh speaks, I was taken back to my childhood.
But it isn’t just the voice we recognize beneath the newly envisioned exterior- it’s the character. Pooh acts exactly as we remember, and Christopher Robin (played to perfection by Ewan McGregor) acts exactly as we’d expect a middle-aged man to act when his childhood stuffed animal climbs out of a tree and begins talking to him.
It would have been very easy for this movie to get distracted by technicality- talking stuffed animals and talking real animals and how Christopher Robin- or anyone else- can have a conversation with them. It had so many opportunities to diverge into exposition and fantasy science that would have been to it’s detriment. But thankfully, the movie just expects you to accept that stuffed bears and mangy rabbits can talk to one another, and can talk to people, too. It never tries to explain any of its fantastical elements, and simply allows the imagination to go with it.
But for all it’s fantastical elements- the Hundred Acre Wood, the talking creatures, etc. and so forth- the movie remains very grounded in reality. And what a bleak reality it is; the movie pulls no punches, showing war and heartbreak and mismanaged expectations to a startling (yet still PG) reality for a Winnie the Pooh film.
I’m not gonna lie; the first hour is kinda heart-breaking. When Christopher Robin gets frustrated at Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood, it hurts. It makes you feel like your own childhood is being ripped apart. It makes you want to reach for your own teddy bear and tell him (or her) it’s gonna be alright.
Pooh himself has this perfect, naive innocence that simply doesn’t understand why Christopher Robin has become the way he is, but he never casts judgement on his friend, as many of our own friends might; Pooh only sees that his friend has lost his way, and needs his help.
This movie was never going to be a light-hearted story about a boy and his bear. And it wasn’t made for kids, either; it was made for those of us who grew up. This movie is about what happens when Christopher Robin grows up. And what happens when we all grow up? We get bogged down by bills, by work, by distractions. We tend to put our focus on things that ultimately don’t matter and ignore the things we do.
That’s what this movie is about. It’s not intended to be an adventure, like Hook, but rather a study of character. An introspective on us, to make us think about how much we try to do and how little we accomplish.
After all, as Pooh says, “Do nothing usually leads to the very best something.”
This movie is a reminder that we should do nothing more often. We should take time to relax, to be with friends and family. We shouldn’t be so focused on work that we cannot have fun. We should be focused on living life.
This movie is exactly the message we need to hear in this distraction-filled world we live in, where technology demands our attention constantly, where jobs demand more and more of our time for less and less return.
This movie is a reminder that we are letting the most important things slip away in front of us. Sure, it’s wrapped in a honey-covered bear and a bouncing, singing Tigger, but more often than not, the only way we learn a lesson is by using our imagination to teach it.
So when you go to work tomorrow, don’t forget to laugh. Don’t forget to leave it at the job when you are done. Don’t forget to take time for yourself, for your family, and your friends. And if you still have your teddy bear laying around, maybe dust him/her off, and say “thank you, silly old bear.”