[Screen It]

"GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN"
(2017) (Domhnall Gleeson, Will Tilston) (PG)


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QUICK TAKE:
Drama: An author, suffering from PTSD following WWI, strives to write something to uplift the world, unaware that his creation will overtake and dominate his and his young son's lives.
PLOT:
It's after WWI and Alan Milne (DOMHNALL GLEESON) is an English war vet suffering from PTSD. He's also a writer who's hoping to pen something that will brighten the world, but he's currently suffering from writer's block, something that doesn't sit well with his high society wife, Daphne (MARGOT ROBBIE), who just wants to live off the spoils of his work. Thus, she isn't pleased when he moves her and their young son, Christopher "Billy Moon" Robin (WILL TILSTON), out to the country where he hopes the change of scenery might inspire him.

What it does inspire is a return to the city by Daphne who says she'll return once he starts writing again. All of which leaves their nanny, Olive (KELLY MacDONALD), to be the boy's nurturing mother figure, what with Alan not comfortable in his parenting role. But he does spend time with Christopher Robin and the boy's imagination eventually leads Alan to create the various characters of the Five Hundred Acre Wood world, including Winnie the Pooh.

The initial book becomes a hit, Daphne moves back home, and the parents end up using their son to help promote Alan's literary creation. All of which puts a strain on the boy and his relationship with his parents, a problem that lingers as he grows up into a young man and another world war looms.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm not much of a Winnie the Pooh fan. I wasn't as a kid and while I admire the gentle nature of the offering as an adult (especially in today's world where so much geared for kids is of the "in your face" frenetic variety), the title character and all of his friends in Five Hundred Acre Wood aren't high on my list in terms of entertainment offerings. It's not that I despise any of it, and I've actually liked, for the most part, the various animated films featuring the characters. Simply put, they and the universe in which they exist just aren't my cup of tea.

Thus, the second film of the fall to feature the genesis of a popular fictional character (the first being "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" about how Wonder Woman came to be) didn't exactly have me salivating for the origins story and its various details, whatever they might have been.

Yet, as the story -- penned by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan-- started to unfold, and director Simon Curtis used some creative transitions between peacetime and wartime scenes as related to author A.A. Milne, I found myself more intrigued, especially since I knew nothing of the genesis behind Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore and more.

Granted, I have no idea what, if any, artistic license has been taken with the true story of Milne, his wife Daphne and their son Christopher Robin, but a tale about PTSD affecting creativity, bad parenting, the related aspect of children being thrust into the limelight, and having fictional characters overtake both the author and his works is certainly fascinating and promising material.

Alas, the result is only mediocre at best (most likely a disappointment for all involved who probably imagined this as Oscar-worthy material), and the fact that it's as depressing as all get-out (at least in terms of the poor, abused, namesake kid) makes it even more of a let-down, especially after a decently creative start.

Following a brief prologue in 1941 where Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his wife (Margot Robbie) receive some sort of bad news via a telegram, a thrown cricket ball transitions to a bomb in WWI, and another such imaginative transition has Milne leaving a battlefield and entering a dance ballroom.

We then learn that he's an author suffering from writer's block, something not looked upon highly by his high society wife. But that's small potatoes compared to his decision to move her and their young son (Will Tilston) to the country in a remote estate, a relocation that, coupled with her frustration with his creative block, has her move back to London. All of which leaves him to raise their son, but since he's not much of a good father, that responsibility falls to the boy's nanny (Kelly MacDonald).

But Christopher Robin and his imagination spur some creativity in the emotionally distant dad and the characters of the Winnie the Pooh universe slowly take shape. It's not long before the character becomes huge, and the boy is thrust into the limelight as the in-person figurehead for his artistic counterpart.

All of which removes all of the fun for both of them and thus the audience as well. It doesn't help that much of the offering is fairly episodic and thus prevents the film from maintaining its storytelling momentum. Yes, things progress linearly, but not in a way that will keep most viewers glued to their seats to see how things play out and eventually get to the point of that bad news telegram arriving.

Perhaps if I had been a bigger fan of Pooh (okay, that sounds weird), I might have been more invested in the back-story behind the character's inspiration and creation. As it stands, the film certainly has plenty of potential and promising material, but as presented it's just not that interesting. Coupled with the sad/depressing aspects of a boy's childhood being stolen from him by fame-seeking parents, "Goodbye Christopher Robin" rates as just a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed October 4, 2017 / Posted October 27, 2017


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