Cert PG 103mins Stars 3
Ewan McGregor comes unstuck by a CGI Winnie-the-Pooh in this period live-action family fantasy which is surprisingly light on honey.
Disney plunder A.A. Milne’s whimsical classic children’s characters and throw in elements of their own 1960’s animated adaptations, but for all it’s impressive craft, occasional charm and predictable sentiment, there’s a surprisingly lack of joy.
And with the doom-laden donkey, Eyeore, as the funniest character, it struggles for chuckles.
The script imagines Milne’s son Christopher as a middle-aged office manager who’s under pressure at work, disconnected from his lovely wife and daughter, has forgotten his old friend Pooh bear, and can’t see the magical 100 Acre Wood for the trees.
Hayley Atwell brings charm to her small role as the wife, and Mark Gatiss is a panto villain of a boss.
Before you can say ‘Mary Poppins’, the wind changes direction and Pooh Bear enters his life once more, needing help to find his missing friends such as Piglet and Tigger.
Scotsman McGregor deploys his stilted English accent in an earnest performance, but the lacks the genius light-comedy skills of Hugh Grant, who was so brilliant in last years talking bear movie, Paddington 2.
That film placed a beloved bear in a bright modern context, but Pooh is weighed down with a muted palette of autumnal tones and Edwardian nostalgia, making the US accents of the animated cuddly toys sound out of place.
Plus considering 100 Acre Wood is a metaphor for the carefree joys of childhood, even when the sun’s shining it’s a gloomy, muddy, chilly and vaguely nightmarish place.
Director Marc Forster’s is a curious choice as director given his last big movie was Brad Pitt’s zombie thriller, World War Z, and he delivers at best a solid, handsome and occasionally creaky experience.
Fortunately we’ve the Mary Poppins sequel arriving in December to give us a proper spoonful of sugar.