Heart-warming characters, good acting, poor last third
As the title suggests, Disney's Christopher Robin is not the familiar story of a boy and his adventures in the 100 acre wood. Instead, the film is all about what happened to that boy when he grew up. The film follows not Christopher Robin the adventurer, but Christopher Robin the workaholic - so much so that his wife and daughter can never seem to get 10 minutes with him. It's when his work gets in the way of a family vacation that Christopher Robin gets some help from an old friend, Winnie the Pooh.
Watching those two characters interact was a massively satisfying experience. The movie elevates within two seconds of Pooh being on screen and when he's face-to-face with his old friend, the charm ratchets up to 11. More than that, Ewan McGregor (Christopher Robin) gets to show off just how British he is. Pooh may be a stuffed animal, but that's nothing on how stuffy Christopher Robin is. He's so excessively British it borders on parody. There's a scene where his book of choice to read to his daughter before bed is a thorough and detailed history on the First World War.
If anyone can save him, it's a talking bear, rabbit, piglet, owl, kangaroo and Tigger. When Christopher finally meets up with them, it's like magic. It's also a cut above what you usually see from live-action cartoon films. Watching the Smurfs roam New York City is a painful endeavour. Watching Winnie The Pooh and company navigate the streets of London feels right. The only gripe I have with these scenes is that the voices of the characters don't match their cartoon counterparts, but after awhile I got used to it.
This is a film that has a mildly familiar first act, a charming and heartfelt second, but a ridiculously cliched third. It's saved by the middle of the film, which endears you to the characters so much that you don't much mind when it gets a little silly. In fact, you almost expect it. I didn't expect to like the film as much as I did, but I did wish it was better than it is. It could be a big-screen watch, but it's a very high half-price.