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Christopher Robin
  • Score by Geoff Zanelli and Jon Brion
  • Songs by Richard M. Sherman
  • Walt Disney / 57m

The latest Winnie-the-Pooh film is not like the others: live action for a start, it stars Ewen McGregor as a grown-up Christopher Robin, who has forgotten how to have fun until his childhood bear turns up and reminds him what he’s missing.  (My favourite Christopher Robin anecdote: I was walking past St Paul’s Cathedral in London many years ago and a tour guide was telling his tour group that it had been designed by Sir Christopher Wren – an American tourist asked him incredulously “you mean the guy from Winnie-the-Pooh!?”)
The score for the film was supposed to have been composed by Jóhann Jóhannson – a bold and unexpected choice.  His untimely death meant a new composer had to be found – and it was another bold and unexpected choice, Jon Brion.  But we all know what happens when a bold and unexpected choice of composer is made for a mainstream family film – “oh bother,” as someone might say, they end up getting replaced by a Remote Control composer brought in at the last minute to write something more conventional and the only real surprise this time is that it was Geoff Zanelli and not Lorne Balfe who filled that role.  A little bit of Brion’s music was retained in the film (and on the album) and he receives co-credit, but the lion’s share of the music is by Zanelli.

When Henry Jackman visited the Hundred Acre Wood a few years ago it inspired him to write one of his best scores and the same seems to have happened to Zanelli.  It may be predictable, but it’s also extremely lovely: the Danny Elfmanish main theme introduced in “Storybook” is a delight, and the charming piano-and-strings score is generally full of joy.  It’s sentimental at times, as you’d expect; the modern touches work just fine and don’t sound anachronistic.  The quirky “Chapters” with its world music is not typical, but is a highlight.  It’s really touching at times (“Did You Let Me Go?” in particular is very heartfelt, with some powerful dramatic moments as well).  “Expotition to London” is a delightful little action cue of sorts, colourful and expressive and very entertaining (with some hints of Pirates of the Caribbean).  The hints at what might have been from Brion are there in places: “Not Doing Nothing Any More” is so dreamily nostalgic (it sounds a bit like an instrumental of a Randy Newman song – and not a Pixar one); later, “Train Station” is pretty oddball, a bit like circus music, and “Heffalump Battle” uses the same material as its core.  Absolutely the best thing here are three new songs by Richard M. Sherman, who wrote the classic Disney Pooh songs with his brother Robert all those years ago (which are quoted within the score in the film, but oddly barely on album).  They’re all extremely short (three and a half minutes between them!) but an absolute joy – especially the concluding “Christopher Robin” sung by the 90-year-old Sherman himself, which is just perfect and if it doesn’t bring a little tear to your eye, you’re doing life wrong.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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