Friday, July 15, 2011
Movie review: Winnie the Pooh
Rumbling tummy alert!
The folks at Walt Disney Pictures have resurrected the wonder and whimsy of Winnie the Pooh for a new generation of kids, and they've done so with a good deal of cleverness and a hunnypot of humor.
This short, traditionally-animated feature (69 minutes) is paired with a charming, much shorter (about 10 minute) animated short, The Ballad of Nessie, a tale of a tragically-displaced sea monster told entirely in verse by narrator Billy Connelly. The Nessie cartoon provides a fitting lead-in for the hand-drawn animated feature, serving as a way to acclimate jaded 3D CGI audiences to the gorgeously produced 2D content which follows.
The opening sequence of this Pooh film appears to have been crafted directly from that of Disney's classic 1966 A.A. Milne-inspired cartoon, Winnie the Pooh and The Honey Tree. In this brief live-action segment, we're introduced to the contents of Christopher Robin's bedroom, notable among which are his treasured stuffed animal friends — including Pooh (voiced in animated form by Jim Cummings), Tigger (Cummings again), Eeyore (Bud Luckey), Piglet (Travis Oates), Rabbit (Tom Kenny), Kanga and Roo (Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Wyatt Dean Hall), and Owl (Craig Ferguson). Flash cut to the magically-animated Hundred Acre Wood.
The story will be familiar to those already enamored of the Pooh oeuvre: It's the tale of Eeyore's missing tail. Blended into this narrative is a fresh take on Owl's misinterpretation of a hand-printed Christopher Robin note, which Owl takes to mean that the poor fellow has been kidnapped by a monstrous creature known as a Backson.
Misadventures aplenty result, culminating when all the characters find themselves trapped at the bottom of the pit they've dug to capture the dreaded Backson. (They seem to have forgotten that Owl can fly.)
There's lots of singing involved in the proceedings, with Zooey Deschanel warbling out the classic Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman title tune. Newly-written songs come courtesy of Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez.
Cummings' vocal stylings bear (get it? BEAR?) an uncanny resemblance to those of Sterling Holloway, who spoke for Pooh in those classic '60s and '70s era Disney shorts. The rest of the characters speak in satisfying semblances of their cartoon predecessors, except for Eeyore (Luckey), whose voice — while fittingly lugubrious — somehow lacks the depth of self-pitying misery that seems to be required for the gloomy donkey — instead, it's just plain flat.
Winnie the Pooh, as directed by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall, is a fun — and funny! — kid-friendly film, far more appropriate for youngsters of the pre-teen persuasion than the dark and deadly finale to the Harry Potter series which also opens this weekend.
Unless, of course, you take this raggedy bear tale as a treatise on gluttony and obsession. (Hunny-loving Pooh really does have a one-track mind, you see.)