As we were leaving the theater after seeing Christopher Robin, we overheard a mother say to her daughter (around eight years old), "What do you think is the message of that movie?" The girl replied, "Don't grow up." She got it!
This charming film features live action people cavorting with CGI-animated versions of the characters from A. A. Milne's books illustrated by E. H. Shepard from the 1920s and countless Disney animated TV shows and movies. In the opening scenes, young Christopher Robin (Orton O'Brien), bound for boarding school, is saying goodbye to his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood: Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings), who describes himself as a "bear of little brain"; dour and pessimistic Eeyore (Brad Garrett); worldly Owl (Toby Jones); always enthusiastic Tigger (Jim Cummings); timid Piglet (Nick Mohammed); soothing Kanga (Sophie Okonedo); childish Roo (Sara Sheen); and inquisitive Rabbit (Peter Capaldi). Christopher promises them he will never forget them or their great times together.
Fast forward to the 1950s. Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) has served in World War II, fallen in love and married Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), and become the father of Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). He has a high-stress job heading up the efficiency department of a luggage company, but he's succumbed to the dangers of adulthood. The company is in financial trouble and his boss (Mark Gatiss) expects Christopher to find a solution. This means he has to work through the weekend he'd promised to spend in the country with his family. When he tells Evelyn the bad news, we realize this is not the first time he's put work over family.
Meanwhile, in the Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh has lost track of his friends. Magically, he goes through a portal to Christopher Robin's neighborhood where he elicits his old friend's help in finding them. This feels odd and impossible to an adult who has obviously lost track of his inner child. He's embarrassed carrying a talking Pooh down the streets of London. And besides, he's got work to do!
The rest of the story is pretty predictable, but that does not diminish its charm. We found ourselves wishing we could hug our toys from childhood (and we still do have some of them) and plan adventures with them. We, too, would love to be rescued from our work-filled lives and enjoy a picnic in the woods. We can't follow the advice "Don't grow up" but we don't have to lose the playfulness of childhood.