Director Sean Anders Talks About His Own ‘Instant Family’

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne’s comedy/drama film, Instant Family appears to be an instant hit with both critics and audiences alike. Sure, not everyone is a fan, but I suspect that people don’t actually have kids themselves. Those that do, appreciate all of the chaos and (at times) the corniness that is a part of family life. In the movie, Wahlberg and Byrne play a couple who want to start a family, but sort of feel that they are a bit old to be just starting and find themselves looking into foster care adoption and end up adopting a teen girl and her two younger siblings. Unrealistic you say? Try telling that to Sean Anders who co-wrote the script and directed the movie. He lived it. Well, mostly.

I met Anders last week to talk about Instant Family just before the film opened and my biggest question for him was how much of this film was actually based on real life. “A lot of it,” he said and then went on telling me a story about how his family came to be.

“First of all, my …

Fantastic ‘Christopher Robin’ is a Winnie-the-Pooh Movie for Grownups

Movie Review of "Christopher Robin"
Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) and Winnie the Pooh (self) (Walt Disney Pictures)

My first memories of Winnie-the-Pooh were watching the TV specials of Winnie-the-Pooh and the Blustery Day and Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger Too in the late 60’s or early 70’s which were presented by Sears. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I actually read the original stories. Almost all of us been touched by the bear stuffed with fluff, but Disney’s new live action film focuses on the one person who knew Pooh best: Christopher Robin.

The new Disney film shouldn’t be confused with last fall’s Goodbye Christopher Robin which starred Domhnall Gleesaon and Margo Robbie. That film was about the real Christopher Robin and his father, A.A. Milne, who wrote the original stories. The new film, which stars Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell, is about the fictional Christopher Robin, who of course was a character in his father’s stories. Both movies are excellent with similar messages for adults, but they are both very different too.

Taking a cue from the earlier animated tales, this story is told from the pages of a storybook and begins with a young Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien) leaving the Hundred Acre Wood to attend boarding school. Pooh and friends have put together a going away party for the boy and he promises them that he’ll never forget them.

Whoosh! The pages of the book turn and new chapters of Robin’s life are briefly shown from boarding school, meeting his future wife, going to war and working at the Winlsow Luggage Company. With each event that passes, Christopher becomes less playful and more serious.

Movie Review of "Christopher Robin"
Piglet, Pooh, Rabbit, Roo, Kanga, Tigger and Eeyore. (Disney)
The pages stop at a unique time in his life. Christopher (McGregor) is married to Evelyn (Atwell) and their daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) is studying hard to get into the same boarding school as her father. He is overworked and rarely has time for his family, but promises to take them to his old childhood home for a weekend away to play. Unfortunately, his boss, Giles Winslow (Mark Gatiss) tells him that he needs to figure out a way to cut company expenses by twenty percent which would likely include firing many of his hardworking crew members. Christopher tells his family that he can’t go with them on the trip and Evelyn says that she’s not surprised. Mother and daughter leave him behind to do his work.

Meanwhile, back at the Hundred Acre Wood, Pooh is having a strange day not able to find any of his friends and wishes that Christopher Robin were there to help him find them. It’s not long before Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) shows up in Christopher Robin’s adult neighborhood. Christopher thinks that he’s cracked interacting with a walking, talking stuffed animal of his past, but takes Pooh home before anyone else sees him. The reunion is a happy one at first, but it soon becomes apparent that Christopher won’t be able to get any work done as long as Winnie is around, so together they take a train to his old stomping grounds to bring Pooh back to look for Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Tigger (also Cummings), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Owl (Toby Jones), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo) and Roo (Sara Sheen).

Movie Review of "Christopher Robin"
Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) and Friends
This all sounds juvenile and while each scene is shown with lots of humor and wit, profound messages are shared that will go way above kids’ heads. Yes, this is a family movie, but the first half will probably move too slowly for little ones, but it’s this first half that speaks loud and clear to the adults in the room. Strong messages about the importance of a well-connected family, a solid marriage and taking time out for recreation are shared. At one point, Christopher even snaps at Pooh further showing how much the man has changed since his boyhood.

The second half of the film focuses a lot more on the stuffed animals running around in the big city with crazy antics and chase scenes that the kids will love. These childhood friends we’ve all enjoyed have come to life and they are just as fun and friendly as we remember them. Pooh still gets up doing his morning exercises to his “Up, Down, Touch the Ground” song and Tigger still explains “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” in song. Eeyore is gloomy as ever (and perhaps even more sarcastic then we remember) and Piglet is still scared of everything. They’re a fun bunch.

Movie Review of "Christopher Robin"
Bronte Carmichael, Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell (Disney)
This movie is simple as it is beautiful. It is smartly written with similar dry humor that Milne shared in his own stories, but it also shares a lot of heart that you expect. Ewan McGregor is in almost every scene and doesn’t hold back in any of them. From fighting the Heffalumps to getting stuck in a tree. His scene hugging Pooh when he needs the bear the most is priceless. As always, Atwell is almost perfect and charming as ever and don’t be surprised if we see more of Bronte Carmichael in the near future.

Though not a musical, the film does feature short versions of a few songs from the old films and includes three new songs written by Richard M. Sherman. (Sherman and his late brother wrote many Disney tunes over the years). For super fans, stick around for the credits for an extra scene that features Sherman playing the piano at the beach. It’s a great touch and nice way to show honor to this Disney legend.

Christopher Robin is rated PG for some reason, but there is nothing there that is inappropriate or scary for kids. Just keep feeding them popcorn through the slow parts.

Related: How Creative Director Brigham Taylor Helped Bring Winnie-the-Pooh to Life

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