Goodbye Christopher Robin, C+
Rated PG, 107 minutes
The glossy, oversentimental British period drama "Goodbye Christopher Robin" tells of the inspiration behind the Winnie the Pooh stories. Plodding yet well-acted, you'll definitely need some tissues and it's not without some poignant moments, though it's hardly anything new.
After leaving London for the English countryside, writer A.A. Milne ("The Force Awakens'" Domnhall Gleeson) starts to spin fanciful yarns about his son's Christopher's ("The Imitation Game's" Alex Lawther and Will Tilston) growing collection of stuffed animals. These stories form the basis for "Winnie-the-Pooh" and "The House at Pooh Corner," published respectively in 1926 and 1928. Milne and his family, including his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) soon become swept up in the instant success of the books, while the enchanting tales bring hope and comfort to the rest of postwar England.
The ingratiating yet maudlin drama "Goodbye Christopher Robin" is a standard-issue British period puff piece, and is directed by "My Week With Marilyn's" Simon Curtis and co-written by "The Railway Man's" Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Simon Vaughan. The film is partly an exploration of the price of fame and partly a look at growing up too fast, all of which can cause guilt, resentment and guilt.
Gleeson and Robbie are good, but perhaps both miscast as Milne and his long-suffering wife Daphne (they appear too young for their respective parts), though Lawther and Tilston are especially good as Christopher Robin, and Lawther shines as the older Christopher Robin (often called Billy), who would become the basis of his father's popular children's books yet who would grow to resent his father.
The story is best during its initial chapters as it tells of the inspiration behind Winnie the Pooh, and how its success would finally provide a good career path for Milne, though it would ultimately be destructive for his family and cause them to grow apart. As bittersweet and child-like as it often seems, the later acts are also sluggish and muddled, and don't seem to tell the real story.
"Goodbye Christopher Robin" is a bittersweet story for sure: we're left with Milne's legacy and his Winnie the Pooh books, but his family story a dark one. It's a handsome film filled with lovely costumes, props and production design, but executed in a way that still leaves you feeling somewhat empty. You're better off reading the Pooh books for a more satisfying experience.