“It must be hard to imagine your father as a child,” Christopher’s wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), says to their daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael), in the most self-aware, ironic line of Marc Forster’s Christopher Robin.
For a Hollywood family film, something that seems even harder is imagining a father as an actual adult.
As played by Ewan McGregor in the latest exercise in Disney brand management, Christopher Robin is all grown up, but he’s not really an adult. (The name “Milne” isn’t mentioned; in this universe, “Robin” is his surname, not his middle name.)
I want to say Christopher is a family-film stereotype of a man who has grown up the wrong way, having lost all touch with what’s important in life, except he isn’t thought out clearly enough to be much of a character at all.
You know the type I mean: the man caught up in work and grown-up things who has no clue how to be there for his loved ones, until at last he learns a valuable lesson about play, imagination and/or family time.
In honor of the dad in Mary Poppins, we could call stories like this “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” movies, though Pooh fans will not be surprised that, instead of a kite, Christopher Robin has a balloon. (I thought about calling them “Cat’s in the Cradle” movies, but on a hunch I Googled it. Sure enough, TV Tropes already thought of that, though the site’s preferred label is “When You Coming Home, Dad?”)
When such movies are done well, you get, say, The Incredibles or John Favreau’s Chef. When they aren’t, you get Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper’s Penguins or Steven Spielberg’s Hook — possibly the closest analogy for Christopher Robin, though Hook, for all its flaws, was clearly a personal film for Spielberg, whereas Christopher Robin feels cobbled together from bits and pieces of other movies without a cogent vision of its own.
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