I was very excited when I first learned that Disney was planning to bring Winnie the Pooh back to the big screen. I’ve loved all the characters from the Hundred Acre Wood since I was very young. Once I saw the trailer for the first time late last year and then learned that this new version was going to have the feel and look of the classic 1960’s shorts my hopes grew even more.
Thankfully, “Winnie the Pooh” is delightful. The 2D, hand-drawn animation is stunning, with colors as vibrant as in any digital, computer-animated film you’ve ever seen. And the tone is classic “Pooh”, right from with the opening scene in a real boy’s bedroom, filled with stuffed versions of Pooh and his friends. There is a narrator (John Cleese – a perfect choice), characters interacting on screen with the animated pages of the book, and wonderful dialogue that occasionally has Pooh, Eeyore and the others talking directly to the narrator (and us).
The movie begins with Pooh needing some “hunny” to fill his tummy because he’s run out of his favorite food. But soon everyone’s attention turns to trying to find a new tail for Eeyore, and that becomes a contest, with the winner getting a big pot of hunny. But then an even larger problem arises: a note found near Christopher Robin’s house has everyone believing that the boy has been taken by a mysterious creature called the “Backson” and all of their efforts now go toward trying to save their friend.
The magic of the Pooh books and previous on-screen versions has always been in the writing and it’s the same here. Each of these very familiar characters is well defined and their interactions are often priceless. There are some very funny lines delivered in such a low-key fashion, often so quickly, one after the other, that you simply end-up with a smile on your face throughout most of the movie.
And the voice cast is tremendous. The legendary Jim Cummings is back as both Pooh and Tigger. Talk show host Craig Ferguson does a great and almost unrecognizable job as Owl and Tom Kenny (the voice of SpongeBob) debuts as Rabbit. There are several songs in the film, all appropriately simple and fun, and most performed by actress Zooey Deschenel. Oddly, the song that made the trailer so powerful (‘Somewhere Only We Know’ by Keane) isn’t in the movie. I can only guess that the studio wanted to keep the tone of the film silly and sweet and not too serious or emotional.
“Winnie the Pooh” is rated G and, of course, it’s appropriate for everyone. The version released in theaters this summer was only 63 minutes long, a nice length for little ones, but the DVD/Blu-ray does include extended scenes and, of course, plenty of extras. And don’t think this is just a kids movie. Anyone of any age will be charmed by the story, the characters, the dialogue and the message.
On The Official Kid Critic Report Card, “Winnie the Pooh” gets an A-. I have a few very minor quibbles, but they’re not even important enough to mention. This is clearly one of the best animated films of the year.