Christopher Robin: Disney’s Heartfelt Tearjerker a Perfect Family Film

4 Tigger-Bounced, Honey-Soaked stars out of 5 (One of the best of the year)

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I have long been against Disney’s current trend of reimagining their classic films for modern audiences.  While they strike gold on occasion (Pete’s Dragon), more often then not, these films lack the spirit of their originals and grossly misrepresent their iconic characters (Maleficent).  Therefore, it gives me immense pleasure to type that their newest film, Christopher Robin, not only understands the spirit of its characters and source material, but also places it in the modern world without succumbing to crude gags or pop culture references.  If you loved Winnie The Pooh, then you will love this movie.  Like Toy Story 3 (and I don’t make that comparison lightly), it is a love letter to those of us who grew up loving those characters as well as a logical conclusion to their story and a great introduction for today’s kids.

As the trailers haven’t spoiled much of the plot, neither will I.  The film follows a grown-up Christopher Robin (a perfectly cast Ewan McGregor), now an overworked and distant family man whose innocence was buried by the harshness of life.  However, when his childhood friends Pooh, Tigger (both voiced by Jim Cummings), Eeyore (voiced by Brad Garrett), and Piglet (voiced by Nick Mohammed) reappear, Christopher will learn the value of embracing his inner child again.

I love almost everything about this film.  Pooh and his friends retain their personalities and blend seamlessly in the real world.  The ever-reliable McGregor interacts perfectly with his cuddly co-stars, and the film’s score successfully combines bouncy and inviting pieces with surprisingly somber ones when needed.  The voice acting is flawless on all sides, with Cummings and Garrett being true standouts as Tigger, Pooh, and Eeyore.  The people working on this film clearly have reverence and love for these characters and they never talk down to or insult our intelligence.

My only problem with the film is its lack of character development for Christopher at the start.  We see him working at his job, but he’s hard to sympathize with for much of the first half.  However, McGregor’s skill as an actor got me through this early rough period and was worth it in the end.  Also, kids might need some explaining of the plot in the opening 20 minutes, but it’s simple enough to follow after that.  Pooh and his friends lighten the mood and inject humor once they appear, so it’s well worth the wait.

Christopher Robin is just the kind of hopeful family entertainment we need.  It doesn’t shy away from sadness, but it’s not a depressing mess as some have proclaimed it.  I would recommend this film to all family audiences and fans of these characters, if only so this silly old bear can remind us that this dark world still has some light in it.

Rated PG For Some Action (a brief battle in WWII and some property damage).

“Out of the Shadows”: Half-Shelled Sequel Should Entertain Kids

2 out of 5 stars (has some good moments, but is overall bad)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Poster
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“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” is a surprising (if only minor) improvement over its 2014 predecessor. The tone is light, the turtles are more fun, and the characters frequently point out the ridiculousness of their situations (at one point, a Knicks player comments on having pizza on his Nikes).  The sexualization of April O’Neil has also been toned down (sorry Megan Fox fanboys), and the story is more turtle-centered.  Some good songs also appear.  Unfortunately, the praises end there.

The “story” this time involves the Heroes in a Half Shell once again attempting to stop the evil Shredder (this time played by Brian Tee) from, and listen to this, opening a portal so that an alien named Krang (voiced by an unrecognizable Brad Garrett) can come and rule the earth.  It doesn’t help that Shredder has turned petty thugs Bebop and Rocksteady (Gary Anthony Williams and wrestler Sheamus) into a mutant rhino and warthog to stand in their way.  Now, the brothers must defeat their new enemy with the help of human friends April O’Neil, Vern (a forgettable Will Arnett), and cop Casey Jones (Stephen Amell, known for TV’s “Arrow”) and save the world once again.

This movie knows how dumb it is and has an appropriately light and kid-friendly atmosphere. My theater did not have any children in it, but I presume they would enjoy the banter between the turtles as well as Bebop and Rocksteady’s antics.  That does not make it a “good” kids’ movie by any means, but they will enjoy the action and ridiculousness of the proceedings.

I found the action and performances to be rather forgettable here. There is one decent sequence involving a plane over Brazil, and Laura Linney is decent as a policewoman, but everything else is either “meh” or laughably bad.  The latter is especially true for Stephen Amell, who shows none of his dramatic abilities in his thankless role.  I won’t blame it all on him, as the script gives him absolutely nothing to do.  The same goes for a “Nutty Professor-esque” Tyler Perry playing a scientist who helps Shredder turn Bebop and Rocksteady into monsters.  The entire film seems to be going through the motions with very little personality or flair put in.  However, to end on a positive note, I thoroughly enjoyed the placements of the songs “War”, “Ice Ice Baby”, and even “A Little Less Conversation.”

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” should entertain die-hard fans and the 10-12 year-old demographic (I don’t say younger due to some unnecessary profanity and freaky images), but for everyone else, I would suggest going shopping for a couple of hours and then picking them up. While it isn’t the worst kids’ film I’ve seen this summer( “Angry Birds” has that honor), I think it may be time for these turtles to retreat back into the shadows.

Rated PG-13 for Sci-Fi Action Violence