Winnie The Pooh
What It Is
For Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings), the most important thing is always honey. No matter what time of day or what else might distract him, he comes back to the fact that his tummy is rumbling and he must fill it. Just so, Winnie The Pooh begins as he wakes one fine morning in the Hundred Acre Wood and, on hearing the usual noises from within his pudgy belly and sets out in search of sustenance.
His day unfolds as it might usually, that is, he seeks out big dreamy pots marked “Huny,” checking out neighborhood beehives and knocking on friends’ doors. In due course, he joins up with his best friends in the Wood: Owl (Craig Ferguson), currently working on his memoir, Tigger (Cummings again), ever bouncing and pouncing, Piglet (Travis Oates), Kanga (Kristen Anderson-Lopez) and Roo (Wyatt Dean Hall), and of course, Eeyore (Bud Luckey).
Dismal as he always feels, Eeyore is especially down because he’s lost his tail. The friends establish a competition to find a replacement, with the prize being a pot of honey, which of course sweetens Pooh’s interest in the effort. Soon enough, they’re all distracted by the unexpected disappearance of Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter), who leaves behind a note that seems to say he’s been kidnapped by the “Backson” (the animals’ misunderstanding of the phrase, “Back Soon”).
Their extra-clever attempts to lure and trap the monster — whom they perceive to be large and orange-haired and horned, based on Owl’s storytelling — make up much of the plot. They set traps, dig a hole as a trap, and, no surprise, spin themselves into an unnecessary “bother.” By the time they sort out the mystery, they’ve also come to see what’s most important for each of them, to be good, generous, loving friends.
Why It’s Fun
In a word, the words. This Winnie the Pooh is attentive to the page, what letters and sentences and even paragraphs look like on a surface, how they lead the eye and offer promises, how they encourage pursuit and spark the imagination. In this sense and others, the movie pays unusual respect to the books by A.A. Milne, not only for their stories but also for their existence as books. The animated effect is lovely: Pooh and Eeyore and Piglet scramble over words or climb onto letters, they make metaphorically clear the building blocks such signs provide — a means to understanding and communication and sharing, all the wonderful ideas so well developed in the narrative.
The animation is completely charming. Hand-drawn and unbusy, the images are not simple so much as they are delicate and expressive.
One more thing: as Pooh embarks on his series of low-key adventures, he occasionally speaks directly with the narrator, John Cleese. These moments are clever and warm, as the bear might question the narrator’s assumptions or try to follow his suggestion.
Who’s Going To Love It
Young children and their parents will appreciate the movie’s genuine, gentle affection for its characters as well as its sweetly unaffected storytelling.
Pooh, of course, is a delightful Bear of Very Little Brain, and Eeyore and Tigger are as appealing and nuanced as you remember them.
As a first movie experience, this Winnie the Pooh seems ideal: no explosions, no fart jokes, just friends figuring out how they can be happy together and make each other happy too.
What To Be Aware Of
As Pooh and Tigger and friends go out into the woods to find the Backson, they scare themselves. That is, they imagine dangers and feel spooked by shadows and breezes. Any such instances of scary stuff are soon resolved, and the friends realize they can count on one another.
8 out of 10
Winnie The Pooh
Director: Don Hall, Stephen Anderson
Cast: Bud Luckey, Craig Ferguson, Jack Boulter, Jim Cummings, John Cleese, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Tom Kenny, Travis Oates, Wyatt Dean Hall
Studio: Walt Disney
US Premiere: July 15, 2011
UK Premiere: April 15, 2011