Hereditary works better as family drama than horror; Disney’s live-action Christopher Robin works slightly better than the true life tale about the real boy that inspired the beloved children’s stories.
Dir: Ari Aster
*ing: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Milly Shapiro, Alex Wolff, Ann Dowd, Milly Shapiro
When Annie’s (Toni Collette) 78-year old mother passes away, it sets into motion events that reveal dark family secrets and bring to the surface deeply harboured guilt and resentments that will touch each and every member of Annie’s family. Nobody’s safe – not husband Steve (Gabriel Byrne), not stoner teenaged son, Peter (Alex Wolff) and not introverted younger daughter, Charlie (Milly Shapiro). Then things get worse when an unexpected, horrific tragedy strikes.
When debutant writer/director Ari Aster concentrates on the family dynamics the movie works as a tragedy. A looming sense of dread coupled with the unnerving uncertainty of not knowing what’s real and what’s not adds to the tension (is something spooky really going on or is it all in Annie’s head?). Aster’s juxtaposition of Annie’s dioramas (she’s an artist) with reality is also an effective trick, which doesn’t outstay its welcome. The same, however, can’t be said of the movie itself. At just over two hours it runs a bit too long and runs out of steam about half-way through when it devolves into a predictable horror flick.
Cut to chase: Works better as drama than horror.
Christopher Robin*** ½
Dir: Marc Foster
*ing: Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss, Oliver Ford Davies, Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett
This live-action/CGI mashup has Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor), the young boy in all those Winnie-the-Pooh books, poems and animated films, all grown up in 1950s Britain, married to Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and with a little daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). Problem is Christopher’s turned into a worker drone, too caught up in trying to be a good provider to realise that he’s losing both his family and himself in the process. But when Winnie-the-Pooh finds himself in London, he enlists Christopher’s help in finding his lost friends – Tigger, Eeyore, Owl, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga and Roo. Then all the friends decide to return to London with Madeline to help Christopher find himself and rediscover the joys and wonders of life.
Christopher Robin is a quiet, little charmer. It may be a tad simplistic in its plotting but it’ll have the adults smiling with nostalgia and at the unapologetic whimsy and wonderful little Pooh-isms while the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood, brought to CGI life, will delight the young ones. The voice acting is also top-notch, led by Jim Cummings who has voiced the animated Pooh for decades now.
Cut to chase: A charmer that doesn’t feel out of place with the Winnie-The-Pooh oeuvre.
Goodbye, Christopher Robin***
Dir: Simon Curtis
*ing: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Will Tilston, Kelly Macdonald, Alex Lawther
If you want to have your childhood illusions shattered (or, at least, severely dented) than take a look at Goodbye, Christopher Robin. It gives you the true life tale of the origins of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, poems and the relationship between the real Christopher Robin (Will Tilston) and his parents, beloved children’s author, A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and self-absorbed mother, Daphne (Margot Robbie) in post-First World War Britain. Also on hand is Christopher’s beloved nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald). The movie shows you the cost the Winnie-the-Pooh books had on the family in general and Christopher, in particular.
Director Simon Curtis doesn’t quite mine the material to its deepest core and both Gleeson and Robbie aren’t particularly convincing (Robbie, in particular, is undone by a shaky English accent) but their weaknesses are well-compensated by the endearing Tilston and the appealing Macdonald and, ultimately, the movie does manage to pluck at your heart-strings. Goodbye can be a good companion piece to the new Disney film if you can accept that reality is often (if not always) not as idyllic as children’s fables would have you believe.
Cut to chase: Intriguing and sad look at the origins of the Winnie-the-Pooh books and poems and the aftermath.
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