Disney is taking over the world. Yes, you heard it here first people. Actually, you didn’t as like Thanos collecting the Infinity Stones, the legendary studio is slowly collecting every asset – Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel and, most recently, 20th Century Fox. But despite all the spending, they still have a pretty impressive roster of their own that are slowly being reimagined for modern audiences, with Beauty & The Beast and The Jungle Book devouring the box office in the last couple of years. Now it’s the turn of one of their oldest characters (also purchased) to leap back to life on the big-screen: Winnie the Pooh is back, a little more worn than before but with a new lease of life in his own psydo-reimagining.
Taking its cues from films like Big and Hook, Disney‘s latest old-made-new begins as you might expect, nestled safely in the warm, lush greens of Hundred Acre Wood as Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien here, Ewan McGregor soon after) spends his final few hours with his furry friends before he must return to the “real world” and with it, boarding school, graduation, fighting in World War II and falling in love with Evelyn (Hayley Atwell). Life as an adult begins for Christopher but gone is his free-spirited youthfulness, replaced with misdirected devotion to his job rather than his family.
There’s a huge amount of charm here, not least from the furry characters themselves who are the heartbeat of the film, bouncing (or, in Eeyore’s case, moping) along in their quest to save Christopher from his dour stupor and direct him onto a sunnier path. But for all the frolics they deliver, there’s a real lack of warmth and heart here, the kind that made Paddington and its sequel, and indeed our lead character, work so well. Frankly, it’s doesn’t help that Robin is really dull when all’s said and done and while McGregor tries his hardest to make it all work, he is a little miscast here.
And, by extension, director Marc Forster, who has taken on zombies, Peter Pan, Bond and Will Ferrell in the past, feels like the safe choice rather than the right choice. He has enough ingenuity to just about make it through but it all feels a little drab in places when it should be light and magical, with some moments that should make your heart flutter feeling a little too manufactured. You could argue that one of the film’s screenwriters, Alex Ross Perry, maybe would have given the film a little more originality and sparkle than we get here. Still, there’s a timeless nature that doesn’t get old and there’s nothing like a good Tigger bounce or an Eeyore zinger.
In the realm of Disney remakes/reimaginings, this one sits somewhere towards the bottom of the pile, feeling more like a missed opportunity on the whole than it should have been. Still, whenever the loveable animals of “The Wood” are on screen its a hoot and while the true House of Mouse magic isn’t quite there, younger audiences will get a big kick from this one.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=3]
Family, Adventure | UK, 2018 | PG | 16th August 2018 (UK) | Disney | Dir.Marc Forster | Ewan McGregor, Haley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss, Jim Cummings, Toby Jones, Peter Capaldi