Winnie the Pooh (Review)

WINNIE THE POOH (7/15/11; Animation, Comedy, Musical)
Voices: Jim Cummings, Tom Kenny, Craig Ferguson, Travis Oates, Bud Luckey, Jack Boulter, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Wyatt Dean Hall, John Cleese (narrator)
SCR: Burny Mattinson; based on stories from Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, by A. A. Milne
DIR: Stephen Anderson, Don Hall
MPAA: G
1 hour 9 mins
BOX: $26,644,662

Lovingly hand-drawn sequel should please even casual fans of the denizens of Hundred Acre Wood. Given the way the Pooh property has been manhandled by Disney over the years, I’m amazed this film wasn’t animated via CGI and released in 3D.

There’s nothing wrong with that if we’re talking about How to Train Your Dragon. But the gentle world of Christopher Robin and his woodland companions cries out for a quaintness to preserve what was so endearing about the stories in the first place. It’s an added bonus that while the ads touted a “brand new story,” the episodes were culled from Milne’s first two Pooh novels, released in 1926 and 1928. Having read those books to my son, I was well aware of what really became to Eeyore’s tail, and why setting a trap for a monster called a “backson” would be a fruitless endeavor.

To the filmmaker’s credit (Pixar’s John Lasseter executive produced), the stories play out in very faithful ways. Keen-eyed fans of the Pooh series will be happy to find a lot of visual and aural call-outs to the books and classic short films. The 2D backgrounds are lushly illustrated, and based on the watercolor aesthetic or original illustrator E.H. Shepard’s artwork. The rich colors are sumptuous.

There is something lovely about being able to see the pencil lines on Pooh’s eyebrows that suggest this was built by hand. On the down side, I suppose I could have lived without the letter ladder and the gargantuan pot of honey. There are also a lot of musical interludes for such a short running time.

One could also grouse about the fact that, when compared to the original short films (that were combined to create 1977’s The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh), the pace has been quickened and the tone sharpened. And I suppose that’s a byproduct of a faster era, but it’s a minor miracle this film exists at all.

SHE & POOH: Zooey Deschanel proves a welcome addition, performing three songs for the film, including a take on the Winnie the Pooh theme song, “A Very Important Thing to Do” and the end-credit song “So Long,” which was written by Deschanel and performed with M. Ward, her band mate in She & Him. (Disney)

— DENNIS WILLIS



Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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