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Goodbye Christopher Robin Movie Review

Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) movie poster Goodbye Christopher Robin

US Theatrical Release: October 20, 2017 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Simon Curtis / Writers: Frank Cottrell Boyce, Simon Vaughan

Cast: Domhnall Gleeson (Alan Milne), Margot Robbie (Daphne Milne), Kelly Macdonald (Olive), Alex Lawther (Christopher Robin aged 18), Stephen Campbell Moore (Ernest Shepard), Vicki Pepperdine (Betty), Richard McCabe (Rupert), Geraldine Somerville (Lady O), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Mary Brown), Will Tilston (Christopher Robin aged 8)

 

In recent years, biopics about authors finding their inspiration have been a way for filmmakers to revisit classic stories without simply retelling them. The class includes some fine, distinguished films like Shakespeare in Love, Finding Neverland, and Saving Mr. Banks. But not every creative breakthrough lends itself to such treatment.
The recent Professor Marston and the Wonder Women had an interesting story about the creator of Wonder Woman and his unconventional polyamorous relationship, but it has found no audience. Goodbye Christopher Robin considers the conception of the beloved Winnie the Pooh and friends but without a compelling story to tell.

A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson), a British veteran of World War I, writes books. He has a wife (Margot Robbie) and they have a young son named Christopher Robin but more frequently called Billie Moon (Will Tilston). The child has a treasured teddy bear he eventually comes to name Winnie after a black bear from Winnipeg that he sees at a London zoo. There are other stuffed animals, of course. These will directly inspire the characters of Piglet, the donkey named Eeyore, and Tigger.

I love Winnie the Pooh as much as anyone, more so from Disney's various animated adaptations of the tales over the past fifty-plus years than the original Milne books. But there is just no discernible narrative here. Mrs. Milne isn't very nice to the nanny (Kelly Macdonald) that Billie adores. When Mom goes abroad on one-woman adventures, Father and son bond, though the sound of bees takes the father back to his harrowing war experiences. A.A. taps his friend E.H. Shepard (Stephen Campbell Moore) to draw the boy at play in the woods right by the family's comfortable Sussex estate as the basis for the books' illustrations.

"Goodbye Christopher Robin" dramatizes the experiences of A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Billie Moon (Will Tilston) that inspired the world famous Winnie the Pooh stories.

The movie makes you feel like an executive at a pitch, asking the question "And...?" Because there isn't a hook or defining thread here. Near the end, Goodbye generates some drama around the now grown Billie (now Alex Lawther) joining the Army, resenting the books for being a source of teasing, and becoming endangered in World War II. But that's not really a story that can be sustained for more than a few minutes either.

The cast is fine. Gleeson has been attached to some great movies without ever being the main attraction or a principal reason for greatness. He's okay, as is Robbie, who doesn't do much to redeem her character.
The film looks nice and sounds nice, but the lack of story, conflict, and intrigue prevent it from rivaling even the most minor and basic of Disney's Pooh cartoons. Director Simon Curtis fails to generate even a fraction of the excitement and passion that made his first two films, My Week with Marilyn and Woman in Gold, relatively warmly received.

Maybe had it come at a different time of year or from a studio that hasn't been at the forefront of many recent Oscar races, Goodbye wouldn't seem so insignificant. But it's serious movie season and prime time for films with awards prospects and Goodbye just gets devoured in comparison to virtually any other film opening or expanding this month, even something as widely hated as Suburbicon, which at least gives you something to chew on and think about. My initial reaction to Goodbye's trailer was that it would have lent better to a segment on "Drunk History" than a feature film. Having seen the final product, I stand by that comment.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Wonderstruck The Florida Project Suburbicon Professor Marston and the Wonder Women The Snowman
Saving Mr. Banks Finding Neverland Walt Before Mickey
Domhnall Gleeson: Ex Machina Brooklyn The Revenant True Grit
Margot Robbie: Suicide Squad The Wolf of Wall Street The Legend of Tarzan
Directed by Simon Curtis: My Week with Marilyn Woman in Gold
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Winnie the Pooh (2011) The Tigger Movie

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Reviewed October 27, 2017.



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