- Kevin Harley
- 13 August 2018
Fitfully charming but somewhat uninspired return to Hundred Acre Wood
Between Pixar, Paddington and The Jungle Book, the markets for growing pains stories and ursine romps have been well-served lately. Not a studio to leave a property un-pawed, Disney's return to AA Milne's Hundred Acre Wood splices live action and CGI and fumbles the job, proving it takes more than button-eyed bears to distract from some fairly threadbare narrative stitching.
Whereas last year's Goodbye Christopher Robin assumed a biographical position, the prologue channels Toy Story 3 as young Christopher leaves his toys to embrace adulthood. Rediscovering the sun-dipped spirit of his earlier JM Barrie portrait, Finding Neverland, World War Z director Marc Forster weaponises the whimsy fast: a shot of Winnie-the-Pooh sadly stroking the heather evokes Terrence Malick.
Yet this tender, tactile intimacy soon slumps into a set-up more well-visited than Pooh's honey jar. Ewan McGregor brings a warm tonal dexterity to the London-based adult Christopher, but even he can't leaven the tired trope of a workaholic neglecting his family and his inner child. As (respectively) his wife and daughter, Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael are even more neglected by the writers; meanwhile, the script spotlights Christopher's contrived return to Sussex, where his childhood toys are ready to redeem him with all the certainty of bears defecating in the woods.
True, plenty of incidental charm also beckons. Lovely voice-work comes courtesy of Jim Cummings' befuddled Pooh and Brad Garrett's deliciously doleful Eeyore. Equally impressively, the CG toys are all the more lovable for being so frayed. But much else here feels merely worn, be it Pooh's sub-Paddington home destruction episode, or sub-Paddington car chase. As for the answers to Christopher's problems, Pooh's homilies about 'doing nothing to achieve something' resemble excuses for the writers' shortfalls of inspiration, not zen wisdoms. For such beloved characters, the bare necessities of back-to-childhood banalities aren't enough to cut it.
General release from Fri 17 Aug.