Movie Week: ‘The “Charming” Christopher Robin’ and The Very True ‘Crazy Rich Asians’

15 Aug

Christopher Robin

I took too long to see Christopher Robin. Listening to critics and family members who no longer appreciate movies that aren’t action-packed, I waited off on seeing this movie, feeling it wasn’t pressing. After seeing it today, I fully regret not contributing to its box office weekend count.

The story follows Christopher Robin from the Winnie the Pooh series as he transitions from child to adult. As he traverses through his adulthood, he slowly loses his boy-like wonder and playfulness, overwhelmed by the daily struggles of trying to make sure he keeps a stable family life. Eventually though, he manages to run back into Winnie the Pooh, the lovable bear he grew up with, as Pooh looks to Christopher to help him find his lost friends. This encounter allows him to get in touch with his childhood once again.

Question for all you adult viewers: Did you ever find an old toy or drawing you had as child? Did it make you feel excited? Did it make you laugh and smile? If you have, then you can relate to this story focused on renewing your childhood.

Though the story is kind of predictable, it’s predictable in a good sort of way. It isn’t more than I would expect it to be, and that’s what makes it so charming. Some people were taken aback by how gloomy and ruddy most of the scenes were because their original memories of the animated Winnie the Pooh were so colorful. But actually, I felt that this appearance felt more true to the original book series and felt more authentic. Some people also felt that seeing the characters from Winnie the Pooh enter London made them smaller than life rather than big important characters as some perceived they were in the animated series and movies and such.

But I guess I’ve been playing Kingdom Hearts enough to get used to the characters feeling rather small…

In any case, I never should’ve listened to the naysayers. At the same time, it was the naysayers that lowered my expectations so that I could come into the movie with a fresh mind.

A little backstory on the movie: It was said that Christopher Robin the movie was based off of the author’s son Christopher Robin Milne. In fact, Christopher Robin in the Winnie the Pooh series itself was based off of the real son of the author. But the author’s son had an estranged relationship with his father, similarly to the Christopher Robin in the movie. He hated that his father used him for the books. I don’t think he liked the fame and attention. The real Christopher Robin’s life was also very similar, if not almost exact, to the story developed for the movie. With, of course, a happier ending.

According to Wikipedia:

Christopher Robin Milne was born at 11 Mallord Street, Chelsea, London, at 8 am on 21 August 1920, to author Alan Alexander Milneand Dorothy (née de Sélincourt) Milne. Milne speculates that he was an only child because “he had been a long time coming.” From an early age Milne was cared for by his nanny, Olive Brockwell, for over 8 years until May 1930, when he entered boarding school. Milne called her “Nou”, and stated “Apart from her fortnight‘s holiday every September we had not been out of each other’s sight for more than a few hours at a time”, and “we lived together in a large nursery on the top floor.”[1]:19,21,55,97,104

Milne’s father explained that Rosemary was the intended name for their first born, if a girl. Realizing it was to be a boy, A.A. decided upon Billy, without the intention of christening him William. Instead, each parent chose a name, hence Christopher Robin, his formal name until 1928. Yet, from 1925 onwards, he was referred to within the family as Moon, which was Christopher Milne’s pronunciation of Milne. From 1929 onwards, he was referred to simply as Christopher, and as he states, it was “The only name I feel to be really mine.”

The real stuffed toys owned by Christopher Robin Milne and featured in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. They have been on display in the New York Public Library in New York City since 1987. According to the New York Public Library’s web site, the items have been on display in the Children’s Center at 42d Street, in the “main branch” of the library (the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street) since early 2009.

At his first birthday, Milne received an Alpha Farnell teddy bear, which he later named Edward. This bear, along with a real Canadian bear named “Winnipeg” that Milne saw at London Zoo,[3][4] eventually became the inspiration for the Winnie-the-Pooh character.

Milne spoke self-deprecatingly of his own intellect, “I may have been on the dim side”, or “not very bright.” He also described himself as being “good with his hands”, and possessing a Meccano set. His self descriptions included “girlish”, since he had long hair and wore “girlish clothes”, and being “very shy and “un-self-possessed.”

An early childhood friend was Anne Darlington, also an only child, who as Milne described it, was for his parents “the Rosemary that I wasn’t.” In fact Milne’s mother hoped they would marry one day, hopes she abandoned when Milne turned 25.

In 1925, Milne’s father bought Cotchford Farm, near Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. Though still living in London, the family would spend weekends, Easter and summer holidays there. As Milne described it, “So there we were in 1925 with a cottage, a little bit of garden, a lot of jungle, two fields, a river and then all the green, hilly countryside beyond, meadows and woods, waiting to be explored.” The place became the inspiration for fiction, with Milne stating “Gill’s Lap that inspired Galleon’s Lap, the group of pine trees on the other side of the main road that became the Six Pine Trees, the bridge over the river at Posingford that became Pooh-sticks Bridge,” and a nearby “ancient walnut tree” became Pooh’s House. His toys, Pooh, EeyorePiglet, plus two invented characters, Owl and Rabbit, came to life through Milne and his mother, to the point where his father could write stories about them. Kanga and Tigger were later presents from his parents.

Of this time, Milne states, “I loved my Nanny, I loved Cotchford. I also quite liked being Christopher Robin and being famous.”

When his nanny departed when he was aged nine, Milne’s relationship with his father grew. As he put it, “For nearly ten years I had clung to Nanny. For nearly ten more years I was to cling to him, adoring him as I had adored Nanny, so that he too became almost a part of me…”

When Milne eventually wrote his memoirs, he dedicated them to Olive Brockwell, “Alice to millions, but Nou to me”.

Of his time at boarding school, Milne says, “For it was now that began that love-hate relationship with my fictional namesake that has continued to this day.”

In 1941, during World War II, Milne left his studies to join the army, but initially failed the medical examination. His father used his influence to help get Milne a position as a sapper in the Royal Engineers. After the war, he returned to Cambridge and completed a degree in English literature.[5]:13–21,104,116–118

On 11 April 1948, Milne became engaged to Lesley de Sélincourt, a cousin on his mother’s side, and they married on 24 July 1948. In 1951, he and his wife moved to Dartmouth and started the Harbour Bookshop on 25 August. This turned out to be a success, although his mother had thought the decision odd, as Milne did not seem to like “business”, and as a bookseller he would regularly have to meet Pooh fans.[1]:167–168[5]:107,129–133,147

Milne occasionally visited his father when the elder Milne became ill. After his father died, Milne never returned to Cotchford Farm. His mother eventually sold the farm and moved back to London, after disposing of his father’s personal possessions. Milne, who, didn’t want any part of his father’s royalties, decided to write a book about his childhood. As Milne describes it, that book, The Enchanted Places, “…combined to lift me from under the shadow of my father and of Christopher Robin, and to my surprise and pleasure I found myself standing beside them in the sunshine able to look them both in the eye.”[5]

Following her husband’s death, Dorothy Milne had little further contact with her son, did not see him during the last 15 years of her life, and refused to see him on her deathbed.[6][7]

A few months after his father’s death in 1956, Milne’s daughter Clare was born and diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy.

Milne gave the original stuffed animals that inspired the Pooh characters to the books’ editor, who in turn donated them to the New York Public Library; Marjorie Taylor (in her book Imaginary Companions and the Children Who Create Them) recounts how many were disappointed at this, and Milne had to explain that he preferred to concentrate on the things that currently interested him.[8] He disliked the idea of Winnie-the-Pooh being commercialised.

Despite the fact that many people felt the movie was a much dimmer or bleaker view of the Pooh series, the original story was far more grim and didn’t have quite the same feel-good ending. I think they kept as close to the original Christopher as they could and changed some things to make it relate well to the audience. It ended the way most of us would’ve wanted the real Christopher’s life to end.

Initially, I was going to write this story off as a Hook-alike, but it’s so much deeper than a re-telling of a classic. It’s really an awakening. This story had substance, stuck to its source, and inspired me to peer closer into the Pooh series and appreciate it. It made me do more research about the characters and story. Really, it made me deeply fall in love with the old classic. It was simply charming and heartwarming.

Besides, I can’t resist British films or films located in foreign countries, teddy bears, Disney movies, and sprinklets of history. I might be the only one who appreciates family tales like this anymore. I give this a 10/10. This movie might not be for everyone. It’s family-friendly, but it has a slower-paced story than the action-thriller movies most people are accustomed to seeing nowadays.

If you like this movie, I also recommend Paddington Bear.


Crazy Rich Asians

Finally, a movie with an all-Asian cast that doesn’t follow a Kung Fu, Taekwondo, or Karate story-line. Finally, a hot Asian man plays the lead character (though he’s been said to be mixed…).

There are so many reasons I’m grateful for this movie. We hardly get any Hollywood movies portraying Asian-Americans in any other roles but lame dorks or fighting masters.

On the story side, if you’re accustomed to watching Asian dramas, this movie might be a little predictable. Really, if you’re used to movies about fancy rich guys marrying down their class, you’ll find this movie to move along exactly the way you expect it too.

On the other hand, as much as the concept is common, they pull it off in such a stylish way and sprinkle it with different surprises, it feels a little different. Maybe it’s the Asian cultural pieces that make this movie stand out. It certainly makes itself distinct from just being any old movie about “rich people”. They are rich “ASIANS”.

This isn’t to say I don’t have my criticisms. There were many things left out of the movie that I felt would’ve added to the story (but then maybe it would’ve made the movie feel too cluttered…). Perhaps those things will come in a sequel (if this movie does well enough to get the “green light” for a sequel).

I also felt that one of the final scenes with the lead female and the lead male’s mother was actually unnecessary by the time it occurred and should’ve occurred much sooner. But I understand it was needed to show us (the viewers) the character’s resolve. It was a scene that was basically showing the character’s new-found strengths and courage.

Still, it seems like the writer was trying to depict the character in the scene as the one taking the “high moral ground”, but because of the timing, the scene just felt like a manipulative attempt to make the lead male character’s mother change her mind…

It would’ve been different if she’d have told the audience in some way that she had a clever idea to change his mother’s mind. Instead, it felt more like she was trying to preach to his mother about how bad she’d been acting, but chose a time when it didn’t really matter…until the end. Her actions felt a little more manipulative than “brave”. I felt the scene would’ve made more of an impact much sooner. By the time the scene occurred, it gave a “Are you happy now?” sort of feeling. Kind of like she was playing a psychological game with the lead character’s mother but told none of us about it in her behavior or attitude.

Other than that, this movie was fun, stylish, and romantic. I haven’t seen a romantic movie in theaters in such a long time, so it was sort of nice to watch a different sort of genre.

The biggest draw to me about this movie is that it aims to tell the truth about Asian families, especially Asians from respected families. I use the term “respected” because these incidences don’t just happen commonly among the wealthy Asians. I’ve heard many, many scary stories about men and women meeting their partner’s Asian parents and not feeling like they measure up.

Unfortunately, it appears the things that happened in this movie aren’t just dramatic tellings of the Asian parent-meeting experience. The issues found in this movie happen to REAL couples who are trying to bridge gaps between themselves and one or more Asian parents. This is especially common with Asian parents who aren’t from a western country.

The average person who watches this movie may think this is just an Asian cliche story (or rather a cliche period), but it really goes down like this in some families. Knowing that, all the drama in the movie made even more of an impact on my viewing experience. I’m not even Asian American. But if I were, how would I deal?

Overall, I think this was a good entertaining watch. I recommend it. I give it a 9/10.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: