Being a human in 2018 is stressful as hell. But Winnie the Pooh is here to fix that.
In the new Disney movie, when a high-strung adult Christopher Robin (played by Ewan McGregor) believes he is hallucinating Pooh from overwork and stress, the bear gently corrects him. “It’s not stress. It’s Pooh.”
That’s just one of the many iconic one-liners from the famous cartoon bear, who manages to elevate an otherwise rote film into an experience that’s not only sweet as honey, but surprisingly profound in its silliness.
It’s hard to wrap your mind around, but Christopher Robin is an unexpectedly philosophical film thanks to Pooh’s many aphorisms (a.k.a. Poohisms) — like the refrain that, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best something.”
There’s an oddly valuable, timely (if unsubtle) lesson to be gleamed from this lighthearted family-friendly comedy. And it’s essentially that we all need to chill the fuck out sometimes, remember to smell the honey and appreciate the small joys in life, even in the darkest of times.
Actually, especially in the darkest of times.
The story starts with the Christopher Robin we recognize from fiction: A boy adventuring with his stuffed animal friends in the magical Hundred Acre Wood. Then, like America waking up to a Trump presidency in November of 2016, that innocence is unceremoniously shattered. He is thrust into soul-crushing adulthood in the form of boarding school, then WWII.
When he returns to his wife (Hayley Atwell) and daughter (Bronte Carmichael), he’s a Londoner with a job at a luggage factory where lots of people depend on him. Silly old bear friends seem like a luxury of a pre-war era, when society could spare enjoyment for enjoyment’s sake. He hardly has time for his family, let alone the honey jar adventures of childhood summer days in the countryside.
Enter Pooh, who embodies what I can only describe as The Zen Philosophy to Treating Yo’ Self. He is the epitome of every big mood from meme-dom: aspirationally lazy, with the chillest zero-fucks vibe and a constant need to eat. Pooh can’t help but make his way back into Christopher’s (and our) hardened heart, even as he brings utter chaos and a platonic, uninhibited kind of hedonism into his life.
Christopher Robin had every reason to be a terrible movie. It relies heavily on actors sharing emotional moments with live-action CGI stuffed animals. It’s predictable as hell. It’s coming off the bad faith of last year’s poorly received and narratively unrelated biopic Goodbye Christopher Robin.
But to my surprised delight, watching this movie feels like ASMR for the soul: slow, quiet, unassuming, and inexplicably calming. The unabashed sincerity is noteworthy in and of itself as an antidote to the apathetic irony that dominates so much of media nowadays.
Christopher Robin advocates for the power and necessity of playfulness in the face a social climate that demands good citizens face unrelenting unpleasantness. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds that relatable. Importantly, it’s not about shrinking away from our responsibility to other people, but fortifying ourselves by taking the time to value the love and beauty that’s right in front of us.
That might sound corny AF. But, listen, #selfcare can be a radical act in 2018.
Perhaps the best way to describe what you can expect from Christopher Robin is to conclude by giving it three out of five Paddingtons. It’s not revolutionary. It’s cheesy as all hell. It goes nowhere you can’t see coming from a mile away, and says nothing you haven’t heard before.
But a very wise bear once told me “Doing nothing often leads to the very best something.”