The best children’s films are actually films which have a message for both the parents and the children watching them. They are not merely entertainment for all, though that is good as well. Disney’s Christopher Robin starring the splendid Ewan McGregor provides a perfect opportunity to ask such questions as— when is it appropriate for an adult to continue to enjoy children’s games and fantasies? When does childlike become childish? How important is it for an adult to not lose his sense of wonder, and his creative imagination? The storyline in this movie focuses on a grown up Christopher Robin who works in the Winslow Luggage Company in London, who sadly has far too little time for his wife and daughter Madeline, and thinks it is a parent’s duty to ‘prepare his child for life in the real world’. Ah, but when does a child get to be a child? And when should a parent encourage children’s dreams and fantasies? In my case, I continued to read and tell my children newly minted fictional stories, until finally my son said– “Dad, don’t you think I’m little old for such tales”. I was sad about that, but David needed to decide on his own when he wanted to take the next step towards adulthood.
A.A. Milne’s classic books have of course been adopted and adapted for films before including purely animated ones, but this film involves a mixture of real actors and real scenes with elaborately manipulated CG models of classic characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and so on. In this film, the blend is so skillfully wrought that it doesn’t seem phony or contrived. And besides the good acting and enduring and endearing characters, this film has lots of pathos in its a little under two hours length. Just about everyone in the theater when we saw it had some tears at various points in the film. There was fun, there was laughter, there was innocence lost and regained, and their was poignancy— as Winnie says more than once— “I’m a bear with very little brain” and he needs his Christopher Robin, whether all grown up or not. Without spoiling the film for you, I will tell you that one of the not so subliminal messages for adults in this film is that if adults allow themselves to fantasize sometimes, they may find creative solutions to their real life problems. While this film has been in the theaters a long time now, I would suggest families with young children should purchase the DVD or stream the film from a service. It can provide several excellent teachable moments, without having to sift through bad language, or violence or gratuitous sex scenes. Of the British films of this ilk, A.A. Milne’s characters including Winnie the Pooh, like that other bear of fame– Paddington, has been much better served in films than the characters of Beatrix Potter.