Winnie the Pooh (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
17Jul/110

Winnie the Pooh (2011)

The first few minutes of Winnie the Pooh took me back to a comfortable place in my grandparent's living room when I was six.  I grabbed a blanket, nestled up in the middle of the floor and wore out my copy of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  Twenty years later and here I am, longing for the same warmth and security of that film, so pleased to feel it rushing back.

But it wasn't sustained, how could something that specific and wonderful stay forever?  But that's always been sort of the point of A.A. Milne's Pooh stories (amongst other things).  So Winnie the Pooh tries very hard to keep the tone light without dipping into the melancholy that is present in both the characters and the plots.  This makes the movie a bit less than what it could have been but as a piece of smiling fun it's entirely successful for it's barely over an hour run time.

There isn't that much in the way of introduction to the characters of A.A. Milne's books, or the one's that will populate this story.  From the get-go pretty much everyone is thrown together to figure out what happened to Christopher Robin after he left a note that the arrogant Owl (Craig Ferguson) misinterprets for everyone.  So while Christopher Robin has left for school and will be "back soon" Pooh (Jim Cummings) and the gang are preparing a trap for the evil "Backson" creature that has kidnapped him while trying to find a new tail for the poor, depressed Eeyore (Bud Luckey).

I'm glad I've left the point in my life I identify with Eeyore the most, but I still feel for the guy.

A sort of playful spirit of postmodernism is alive and well within both the original Pooh films and this healthy adaptation.  The films are very direct in showing that it's the words on the page that make Pooh's world come alive.  So much so that if anyone disappears off screen or goes a bit too high they risk running into the very structure of the material that makes their world possible.  That words play a hand in shaping our reality, both physically and through our outlook, is an important lesson for the youngun's to learn and makes for some good playful fun for us older folks.

Make no mistake about it, it's clear that this film is intended more for the very young Curious George crowd than for those who are just old enough to understand the first ten minutes of Up.  Honestly, I found the lack of "adult" themes and pure respect for imagination refreshing.  It's gotten to the point where those adult moments feel so forced and calculated to an occasionally hypocritical degree (see Toy Story 3) that it's nice to sit back and indulge in a story that just wants to celebrate thought and playfulness instead of putting it's characters in harms way just to cynically tug at our heartstrings.

That said, I was both a fan of and a bit miffed at some of the slightly altered characters here.  Rabbit (Tom Kenny), that bastion of pragmatism, seems to have lost some of that in betweent 1977 and today, leaving a slightly less satisfying rabbit who jumps headlong into the mission against the Backson.  It is a bit of a waste for such a fun character, but given the film's mission of "No conflict!" it's not terribly surprising.  I did enjoy the way Owl was used, far more arrogant and in command of his vocabulary than his earlier rendition or, as Pooh puts it, "You're good at using big words and telling us what to do."

Tigger to be kind of annoying in certain doses, but we get just enough boundy Tigger and scared Tigger to make his scenes quite fun.

The animation is bright and cheery, making good use of the storybook frame to move Pooh and the gang in and out of the pages.  There's only one scene that let's a child's fear of the dark do the talking and that's over very quickly.  Also there are no moments of some light 60's/70's drug use creeping in (Heffalump's and Woozles back in the day), instead we get a quick rendition of a Busby Berkeley dance scene with fountains of honey instead of water.

I admit to missing a lot of the melancholy and scary parts of being a kid that were strongly hinted at in the original Pooh shorts, but Winnie the Pooh is a loving tribute to the A.A. Milne stories and Pooh's own legacy as a cartoon bastion of Disney.  There's still hardly a better way to show a child how their imagination can be used to make stories that will last forever, and the new Pooh is in that great tradition.

Note:  I do want to say it might be ok to arrive at this film a bit late.  There's a short that opens the movie featuring the Loch Ness Monster which features some nice animation in they style of old Tex Avery shorts but a fairly misguided message.  If you can find out when the film proper starts you'll miss both previews and this short, both positives in my book that you may apply as you wish.

Winnie the Pooh (2011)
Directed by Stephen Anderson and Don Hall.
Screenplay written based on characters by A.A Milne and head of story Burny Mattinson.
Narrated by John Cleese.
Featuring the voices of Jim  Cummings, Tom Kenny, Craig Ferguson, Bud Luckey and many others.

Posted by Andrew

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