Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of CHRISTOPHER ROBIN

Christopher Robin, rated PG
*** ½

Christopher Robin is a delightful family-friendly film based on A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh book and characters. The film is a combination of live action and digitally enhanced “stuffed animals”, and contains some excellent messages about the importance of family and friends.
The film is directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland) and the screenplay is written by Alex Ross Perry, Oscar winner Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), and Oscar nominee Allison Schroeder (Hidden Figures).
When Christopher Robin, played by Golden Globe winner Ewan McGregor (Fargo), was a young boy, he would play with Winnie the Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Woods. But when he was sent to boarding school he began to forget them. Now Christopher has grown up. He is a World War II veteran, is married to Evelyn, played by Golden Globe nominee Hayley Atwell (The Pillars of the Earth), and has a young daughter Madeline, played by Bronte Carmichael. He works as the leader of the Efficiency Department of the struggling Winslow Luggage Company in London. On a Friday, his boss Giles Winslow, played by Emmy winner Mark Gatiss (Sherlock), tells him that a meeting has been scheduled for the following Monday with Gile’s father, the owner of the company. As a result, Christopher will have to work all weekend to find a way to reduce expenses by 20%; if not, people will lose their jobs. Christopher already had plans to go with his wife and daughter to their cottage in Sussex for the weekend. He has to tell them that he can’t go, but he wants them to go ahead and make the trip while he works in London. This is obviously not the first time that the family has suffered at the expense of Christopher’s job. In addition, we see that Christopher is pushing his daughter to succeed academically at the expense of enjoying her childhood, and has plans to send her away to a boarding school that she doesn’t want to go to. This part of the film – showing how Christopher had prioritized his job over his family – went on a bit too long, and won’t connect with younger viewers there to see Pooh and his friends.
The film takes us to a foggy Hundred Acre Woods, and we see that Winnie the Pooh, voiced by Jim Cummings, has lost his friends which include Tigger, also voiced by Cummings, Eeyore, voiced by Brad Garrett, and Piglet, voiced by Nick Mohammed.
Pooh enters Christopher Robin’s old door in a tree to find Christopher so that he can help Winnie find his friends. He ends up in London and finds a Christopher Robin very much unlike the one he knew. It’s obvious that Christopher has forgotten Pooh and his childhood friends, and he is actually quite rude to Winnie. Christopher doesn’t have any interest in helping Winnie find his friends. All he wants to do is to get Winnie back to the Hundred Acre Woods so that he can get back to his work assignment in London. So, he grabs his briefcase full of his work papers (referred to as Very Important Things) and they head to the Hundred Acres Woods, where Winnie and his friends fear heffalumps and woozles.
The film includes some excellent humor, including Pooh’s love of honey, and Eeyore’s downcast comments. It features some excellent quotes from Winnie (“I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been”, “People say nothing is impossible, but I do nothing every day”, and “What day is this? It’s today. Yesterday was too much day”. The film includes some animation, which were based on drawings done by E.H. Shepard for the original Winnie the Pooh books.
Christopher Robin is a film that the entire family can enjoy together. It contains some excellent messages about the importance of family and friendship, is both humorous, and also sad at times. The film is much better and ultimately more uplifting than the depressing 2017 film Goodbye Christopher Robin. See my review of that film here.

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My Review of Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast, rated PG
***

Despite some well-publicized content concerns, Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast is a treat overall.
Following the success of their recent animation to live action remakes of some of their classic films – Alice in Wonderland (2010), Cinderella (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016), Disney returns with a new version of Beauty and the Beast. The 1991 animated version received five Oscar nominations, winning two. The new film is directed by Oscar winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters), and written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. It had an estimated budget of $160 million, but is expected to earn that back and more, with a projected worldwide opening this weekend of $215-245 million. The film features an outstanding cast and is visually stunning.
The film is set in the town of Villeneuve in France. Belle, played by Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films) is a happy, independent, book-loving inventor who loves her father Maurice, played by Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda). Throughout the film Belle is pursued constantly by Gaston (Luke Evans, The Girl on the Train), who wants to marry her, but Belle has no interest in him. The one who does have interest in Gaston is the homosexual character LeFou, played by Josh Gad, who voiced Olaf in Disney’s Frozen.  The song “Gaston” has new lyrics that were written by the late Howard Ashman, but did not make it into the 1991 film as they were not considered appropriate for a children’s film.
As Maurice leaves on a trip, he promises to bring Belle back a rose. The rose he tries to bring her is growing on the land of the Beast, played by Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey). Maurice is then captured and put in a jail cell in the castle of the Beast. If you are familiar with the story, the Beast must find someone to love him before the final petal of a red rose kept under glass falls off. If he doesn’t, he is doomed to remain a beast forever, and the members of his household will remain clocks, cups, etc. forever.
As I mentioned, the film features a strong cast. In addition to Watson and Kline, Ewan McGregor portrays the candlestick Lumiere, two-time Oscar nominee Ian McKellen plays the mantle clock Cogsworth, two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility and Howard’s End) plays the teapot Mrs. Potts, and Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci plays Maestro Cadenza.
Alan Menken, who wrote the music for the 1991 film, returns to do the music for this film, which includes new recordings of his original songs such as “Be Our Guest”, along with new songs written by Menken and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (The Lion King, Aladdin, and Evita).  I loved the music and the costumes in the film. The computer generated imagery (CGI) – the castle, wolves, the face of the Beast, etc. were all well done.    My wife thought that the “Be Our Guest” scene was almost over done – maybe they were trying to have it be like a scene from Fantasia?
We attended the film on opening night; the theatre was filled with very small children. However, unlike the animated version, this is not a children’s film. It is dark and the scenes with wolves may well be too frightening for small children.
Leading up to the film there was controversy when the director made news in speaking about the film’s “exclusively gay moment”, which takes place near the end of the film. However, we saw LaFou’s homosexuality played out throughout the film, along with other things thrown in to make this film, as Condon has stated, as diverse as possible. He stated that “By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural…” Chances are, small children will not even notice what Condon and Disney have put in this film, but discerning Christians will and they will find it in conflict with the Scripture (Romans 1:26-27). It’s not enough, in my opinion, to keep you from seeing the film, but it did impact our enjoyment and our overall rating of the film.  On the flip side, sacrificial love is portrayed well.