Marc Foster‘s “Christopher Robin” is not about the creation of A.A. Milne‘s classic Pooh Bear and company (that task went to last year’s Domnhall Gleeson vehicle “Goodbye Christopher Robin”). Rather, it follows in the same whimsical footsteps as two films about another literary figure: Peter Pan. Forster’s “Finding Neverland” told the story of Pan’s creator J.M. Barrie while “Hook” imagined another chapter in the classic children’s story.
“Finding Neverland” scored seven Oscar nominations in 2004, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Johnny Depp (who played Barrie). It won Best Original Score. “Finding Neverland” worked so well because it had the emotional punch right the way through the film (with a gut-wrenching finale) and managed to juggle several different strands of stories and sub-stories and character beats.
While “Christopher Robin” has many great moments it lacks the complexity of the Barrie biopic. Story-wise, it follows the pattern of Steven Spielberg‘s “Hook.” In both films, the lead character is stuck in an adult world of work while juggling the stresses of family life. Fantastical characters appear out of the blue (Captain Hook, Mr Smee, Tinkerbell/Winnie, Eeyore, Tigger) and help our main character learn to be a joyous kid again and realize what is most important in life (family is the answer in both films). It really is quite uncanny.
“Hook” was nominated for five Oscars at the 1991 Academy Awards: Best Makeup, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Song (for John Williams and Leslie Bricusse‘s ‘When You’re Alone’). “Christopher Robin” could find success in these categories, too. Costume Design and Art Direction (now Production Design) are two categories which period films often do well. And Visual Effects is another possibility, too.