Christopher Robin **
Dir: Marc Forster. With: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael and the voice of Jim Cummings. 104 mins. Cert: PG
What to make of the movies’ renewed Pooh fetish? Last year’s handsome if mild-mannered Fox production Goodbye Christopher Robin, revealing how AA Milne’s most beloved creations were steeped in harsh wartime truths, might at a push be claimed as Pooh: A Warning from History. Disney’s new Christopher Robin is more along the lines of The Tao of Pooh: a self-helpy post-Paddington fiction, retconned with all manner of executive-level neuroses, that seeks to applaud viewers for clinging onto (and paying forward) childish things. Preceded by the Mouse House’s familiar Magic Kingdom logo, it is absolutely the work of a corporation with skin in the game.
This Robin (a still-boyish Ewan McGregor) has been conceived as a junior variant of David Tomlinson’s stuffy banker in Mary Poppins: a midranking suit fussing over costs in a luggage-manufacturing enterprise somewhere in Fifties London. A heinous indifference to wife Hayley Atwell telegraphs that this chap requires a Valuable Life Lesson; he receives it one morning upon spilling – ahem – magic honey on an old afterschool drawing. Piff paff Pooh: the silly old bear reappears in this mirthless dullard’s life, in the form of a CG rendering of a long-shelved plush toy – the kind of unheimlich digital artefact to which only youngsters who embraced James Corden’s Peter Rabbit could possibly warm.
As our Chris reconnects with his inner child, accompanying adults should brace themselves for a full 100-minute onrush of platitudes and homilies. A less nannified take might have cast Will Ferrell in the McGregor role, and made merry mayhem; what we instead get is a deeply square Ted, an insistently MOR Where the Wild Things Are, overseen by a company man (Finding Neverland’s Marc Forster) rather than some wayward visionary. (The climax is a board meeting.) Disney’s sporadic Pooh animations remain cinema’s closest match for Milne’s simple charms; for all the expensive honey drizzled over this script, Forster’s film is just unpersuasively weird for an hour, before it tails off in the softest of focuses.
Christopher Robin opens in cinemas nationwide today.