Christopher Robin is all grown up. He’s suffered loss and had responsibility thrust upon him in tragic ways. He’s been to war and come home, he’s taken responsibility for his fellow veterans and wants to do right by though who have suffered because of the war. He hasn’t just put aside his childish things, he has had them torn from him by circumstance and unimaginative people. It would seem that Christopher’s childish things are not done with him, though.
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)
This month, Eve and I discuss Disney’s live action Christopher Robin. Christopher Robin takes a sideways look at what it really means to grow up; what does get put aside, and what doesn’t? Can responsibility and imagination coexist? Christopher Robin is a family friendly nostalgic walk with Pooh, Tigger, and all the rest of the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood. It stars Ewan McGregor in the title role and follows him as his childhood comes back to him in an unexpected way while he struggles to balance work and home. Despite being family friendly and heavily featuring moving, talking (and famous) toys, Christopher Robin isn’t really a kid’s movie. The pacing and content really is better appreciated by adults who shared a part of their youth with Pooh and friends. If you’d like a breakdown of Christopher Robin’s content, we encourage you to check out Plugged In’s review of Christopher Robin.
Likes and Dislikes
Christopher Robin plucks heavily on the nostalgia strings, like many movies recently have done. Done with a similar overall feel to 2013’s Saving Mr. Banks. Original story that is dependent on some familiarity with a past Disney venture. Still, it avoids the nostalgia hammer of Ready Player One. Still, too much nostalgia, like anything else, can be a bad thing, as discussed in this article from Christianity Today.
“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done;
there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
The animation in Christopher Robin is nothing short of outstanding. The toys were so realistically generated that it required almost no suspension of disbelieve to accept that they were there, moving, talking, and getting into trouble. This was helped by each actor’s familiarity with Pooh and friends—it made it much easier to talk to a stuffed animal you’d known all your life!
The score for Christopher Robin was done by Jon Brion and Geoff Zanelli. While not a stand out score, it meshed very well with the movie, filling in the experience and improving it.
Cinematography was skillfully done as well. Use of colors and pacing are both reminiscent of the original Pooh stories and artwork. The specter of the recently finished WWII also was used to build sympathy in a good way.
There are distractions, though—one neighbor constantly badgers Christopher Robin for a promised gin rummy game, but this line of action seems to serve very little purpose.
Joyfully and Beautifully Seen
The majority of the lead in for the movie is framed as a story being told from the book of Christopher Robin’s life, with each major change to his life being a new chapter flipping past. With nearly each chapter, Christopher Robin loses sight of the joy and happiness he had as a child, displacing the capacity for joy with the drive of responsibility.
“A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)
When the wonderfully framed opener is complete, we find a Christopher Robin who is of broken spirit and does not even know it.
“There is a futility that is done on the earth: there are righteous people who get what the actions of the wicked deserve, and there are wicked people who get what the actions of the righteous deserve. I say that this too is futile. So I commended enjoyment because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat, drink, and enjoy himself, for this will accompany him in his labor during the days of his life that God gives him under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 8:14-15)
Christopher Robin doesn’t deserve the hardships he faces, but he faces them nonetheless. The problem is that he does it without joy.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
As a fruit of the Spirit, joy is solidly in the domain of the Christian (though not always easily). Christopher Robin seems blind to joy of the Spirit. His perspective is skewed, overburdened by the pressures of his work. These blinders of perspective are magnified by the attitudes of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, and Tigger. They all see the world through their own perspective and that perspective only. This is what has happened to Christopher Robin—he’s slipped out of balance without joy. It isn’t until Christopher Robin realizes how important his family is to him that his perspective begins to correct.
I Gave Up My Childish Ways.*
“Adulting” is a cute way of referring to the responsibilities that come upon a person when they leave their childhood behind and depend on themselves for the necessities of life. Christopher Robin is the role model for someone who has lost himself in the processes of “adulting.” A big part of being an adult is the level of maturity that you can bring to bear when the situation warrants. The trick is that learning to “adult” is not something that is the sole domain of actual adults. Those of us with experience understand that it is inherently sad when a child is forced to be an adult ahead of their time. We understand that there are elements of innocence and joy that are likely lost forever to the overly burdened child. An entire generation faced this in World War II England.
“He called a child and had him stand among them. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-4)
It is with the innocence, joy, vulnerability, and true humility of children that we are to approach our relationship with God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a large part of the process of sanctification. Until Christ’s return, there will always circumstances through which children must grow up before their time, but their innocence is a treasure of God that is to be protected and defended. Woah to those who intentionally or maliciously, cause a child to face the realities of sin.
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to fall away—it would be better for him if a heavy millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
Of course, we cannot put off “adulting” forever—we must all address the responsibilities of our lives, and we Christians are reminded that it is not only for ourselves or our loved ones that we fulfill these responsibilities.
“Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
In Europe in general, and England, specifically, numbers of believers appear to be in decline:
Church of England attendance plunges to record low – The Telegraph
Humanist Weddings Outnumber Church of Scotland Weddings – Christian Concern
Christianity in the UK – Faith Survey
Is it possible that Christopher Robin would have had a better balanced life if his faith were more front and center? We’ll never know. But we can be sure that OUR lives will have a better chance at balance if we keep our eyes and hearts on God. If we do so, and teach our children to do so, it will be to both our benefits.
“Start a youth out on his way; even when he grows old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)
“I’m Not a Hero, Pooh, I’m Lost.”
Christopher Robin, as both a child and as an adult, was a product of his time and his environment. When we meet him in Disney’s Christopher Robin, he has had a lifetime of experiences that has made him what he is. Christopher Robin wants to do well by his wife and daughter, but isn’t properly equipped to do so. Even so, he aims for the Biblical ideal, perhaps unknowingly:
“An overseer, therefore, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not an excessive drinker, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy. He must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity.” (1 Timothy 3:2-4)
In the story of Christopher Robin, and his wife, daughter, and childhood friends from The Hundred Acre Wood, tell us the story of of family searching for the Godly ideal, even without ever mentioning God.
“So, when Gentiles, who do not by nature have the law, do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts either accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:14-15)
This is the nature of God’s common grace. Even the “wise” utterances of Winnie the Pooh reflect elements of God’s common grace. Each one of these wise sayings, nearly every world religion, all point towards the creator and the need for a savior, because all true wisdom is of God. But they only point; they cannot offer Salvation. They cannot fill an empty heart.
“When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it roams through waterless places looking for rest but doesn’t find any. Then it says, ‘I’ll go back to my house that I came from.’ Returning, it finds the house vacant, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that person’s last condition is worse than the first. That’s how it will also be with this evil generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45)
As we age, we see the world differently. Our perspective shifts with every day, every event, every interaction in our lives. Our perspective as grown adults, as parents or grandparents, is drastically different from when we were children. The same applies to growing in Christ: our perspective shifts as we grow in Him, “who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of his glory, without blemish and with great joy.” Just as we use our experienced perspective to help our children grow, so too we should both help weaker believers around us grow—and accept the help of those stronger in the faith. The story of Christopher Robin is one of Christopher Robin’s coming to understand the difference in the perspective between his childhood self and his adult self, and learning to apply it to the relationships of his here and now. At its core, it’s an important lesson, though one that is wasted if it is not approached with a Christian’s critical thinking and sights set on God.
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