**WARNING: I get a little bit into what some of the characters do and don't do, even though I don't really get much into the overall story.**
Disney's Christopher Robin serves as a companion piece to Goodbye Christopher Robin in that they play different parts of CR's life. Goodbye Christopher Robin takes place during his childhood and has small parts of him growing to a young adult by the end, and Disney's Christopher Robin spends the first ten minutes advancing through his raising years rather quickly so we can get to his adulthood. Outside of the source material, the comparisons of the two films stop there. Disney's Christopher Robin is much more family-oriented fiction, whereas Goodbye Christopher Robin is slightly more adult-themed nonfiction. I'll say that at my age, as much as I loved both films at their cores, I did prefer one over the other.
Now, let's address "the Heffalump in the room" here: This film will receive nearly unanimous praise and everyone who reads this will adore by what they just saw on screen by the time the last page reads "THE END." You will see the 9's and 10's pour aplenty on here, and they will be absolutely justified to the point that I won't disagree with a single thing that they say, truly. I am no different, as while watching this I tapped into early childhood memories of me watching the Winnie the Pooh cartoon. All of the feels were there and they were strong. Parents and children had a joyous experience with the entire film, and my face may even hurt from smiling too much. I will mostly let every other review speak on that, though. I want to try and touch on the moments that others may have trouble expressing or just won't bother to, and explain away how my score (for better or worse) is emphasized by other elements of the film that may or may not have personally worked for me as well.
When I say the words "mixed bag" I'm not referring to the quality of what was on screen, just how my head coped with what was on screen. Every issue I have with the film is mostly not a film issue at all, but rather it is my conflicted mind wondering what kind of film I expected to watch. Having just come off of Goodbye Christopher Robin not one year ago, I was trying to decide whether I was watching yet another biopic of sorts here, or if this was just a fictional fantasy adventure. When it initially seemed like it wanted to be the former, eventually it revealed that it was going to be the latter, and boy they went the whole nine yards with that. Upon first glimpse CR is just letting his imagination run wild with him, but alas it turned out that these stuffed animals are not inanimate, but actually alive and talking. Yes, beneath the surface one can decide to create allegories for the animals' lively spirits representing something larger than they actually were, but in the last half hour of the film it feels like a very shallow version of: "Nope, they're real... accept it and move on." The tone shifted sort of fast without warning into something a bit childish, and not in the absolute best way. It kind of hit a wall with me, because initially they were going so well with what just felt like the imagination route, and I feel I would have preferred that much more. Then again, when I was a child I think I saw the animals more as actual animals and not stuffed objects in CR's imagination, so if I'm a kid watching this film I don't think this is a demerit in any way at all. Sadly, I'm now a thirty-year-old man critiquing a lovable children's film to the bitter end, possibly undeservedly so.
Which leads me to my next personal predicament: I didn't know which lens I was supposed to view this film from. I hate to make the immediate comparison, but Goodbye Christopher Robin strictly stuck to one tone and allowed me to find perspective as an audience member for where I belonged watching it. This film begins with a young CR and the playful animals expressing their personalities to the fullest, so I began watching it as the cartoon and all was fitting. Then a bit of time goes by without the animals to set up CR's current status in the workplace, with his family, and even with a neighbor (whose tiny intermittent "subplot" feels strangely incomplete, unless there was an after-credits scene). During this early stage I figuratively heard children shuffling in their seats, and I literally heard a young girl ask: "Where's Pooh Bear?" Given the expectation the trailers appeared to provide (which I avoided before seeing the film), you'd understand why the youthful ADHD crowd can get a bit restless with the slow pacing of these moments.
Then later Pooh appears and all is righted again, but I sit and wonder where kids are with this bear and his furry friends, because I legitimately do not know. Do they know him in name only but have not read the books or watched the old cartoons? Are they familiar with the animals' voices, quotable lines and unique mannerisms? It's not exactly an ongoing marketed icon anymore, and they might be too busy in front of their Smartphones anyway to know why we who grew up with them find every moment so wondrous. So again, here is where I'm completely out of the know: if children are not as well-versed with the characters at large, I wonder if they'll get as much out of this film as I would if I was there age, or as I did now. Don't be too alarmed, though! There are still plenty of moments to make this movie enjoyable for all ages, whether or not you are privy to all that which is Winnie the Pooh.
Oh yes, Pooh Bear: he was perfection. It's clear that the screenwriters know him very well as to make sure that every piece of dialogue that he says has this poetry about it, accompanied justly with Jim Cummings' original voice work. Every third line that he says will give you a chuckle, whether he is wittily responding to CR or talking to himself. We get a "Think think think" and more than enough honey references (which you can never have enough of). His humor is very deadpan and it works best when you see his innocent beady eyes conveying those words with that little mouth. I'll admit that I miss the cartoon design, but they took enough creative liberties to blend the real stuffed animal with the cartoon version and you get the best of both versions. He is both dependent and dependable, both nescient and thought-provoking, both wanting to make you laugh and cry. I cried exactly two times in this film, and both had to do with a Pooh spoken line or spoken action. They needed to capture this for the film to work, and they did it ever so well.
Eeyore and Tigger were also both real hits and exact representations of their cartoon selves. I would say that Eeyore will win over more with the adults when it comes to his dark and depressing lines (again, this is also one of those times where "if you understand the characters already it works much better"). Tigger gets to bounce, sing and laugh, all with original J.C. voice work and that really means something to me. The misses to me came with Piglet and Rabbit, which although it's unfortunate that their original voice actors have passed away they did not do enough to get close to those voices either. Rabbit always reminded me of a Squidward in the cartoon (I know that SpongeBob came afterward), but had no such notions here... just a couple of "I'm healthy and like things clean" kinds of lines. He also wasn't heavily featured, alongside Owl, Kanga and Roo. Piglet was mostly fine, but was missing the voice, never let out an "Ooooh, d-d-d-d-dear," and never really let his fearfulness become an affecting part of the story. Good thing Pooh made up for most of it, and honestly I could have completely done without the other characters and would have been just fine... yet at the same time Tigger and Eeyore's direct inclusions were too good to pass up.
Ewan McGregor was convincing and looked like he had a great time with the role. Hayley Atwell kind of got to sleepwalk through her mother/wife role as she didn't have much to do, the daughter was good but was in the wrong film for focus on her end (even though they try and maintain that theme throughout, it's not explored very fully), and literally every other character was over-the-top and may have fit with this film but were also outlandish and exaggerated to the point that I really didn't care. As I was saying before, keep this as CR and Pooh having adventures and I would be none the wiser as to the rest of it.
I hope that you can take my review as just very level-headed. There were just a few too many things I found to either be inconsistent, or at the very least made me perceive it as such. That might be more a fault of mine than a fault of the film's, but that's why I get my own vote on here and others will get theirs. My last minor quip was slightly mentioned before, but the overall pacing was pretty slow. I was okay with that, but I am trying to speak for the masses. I think Goodbye Christopher Robin was a film that was lighter on its feet regarding the pace, but it also is a little less kid-friendly since its focus is not on the animals (and never gives life to them, imaginable or otherwise).
Despite the things I've pointed out, I think you can chalk them up as personal issues only, and I can't recommend this film enough. I mean it's Winnie the Pooh, for heaven's sake... of course it will be lovable! My audience applauded at the end, and I did right alongside them. It has something for everybody, and plenty of it. It almost seems sinful to dismiss this film in any sort of way, and don't let my score be an indication of how much I actually did love moments of this film and urge everyone to go check out and see, specifically if you have children, a connection with the characters, or simply if you have a soul. Yet if you missed out on Goodbye Christopher Robin, I also recommend that you see it at some point for something that is probably less fictionalized and slightly more adult-oriented.