Mark Reviews Movies

Winnie the Pooh


3 Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall

Cast: The voices of Jim Cummings, Bud Luckey, Craig Ferguson, Jack Boulter, Travis Oates, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Wyatt Dean Hall, Tom Kenny, John Cleese

MPAA Rating: G

Running Time: 1:03

Release Date: 7/15/11

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Review by Mark Dujsik | July 14, 2011

Sometimes it's nice to be reminded that there are some constants in the world. The sun rises in the east. Gravity keeps us planted on terra firma. And Winnie the Pooh will never have enough honey (or "hunny," if you fancy Pooh's preferred spelling).

There's something inherently hopeful beneath the story of Winnie the Pooh, which holds that the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood can survive and continue their adventures without the help of the boy who conjured them from his mind's eye. Christopher Robin (voice of Jack Boulter) barely fits into the picture here, as the make-believe creatures go on playing make believe as a way to explain his absence. Of course, Christopher Robin (It's impossible to use either his first name or surname on its own, isn't it?) grows up and moves on eventually in the world of A. A. Milne's stories, so there's something fitting that the film, which is already meta enough in its literal storybook backdrop, treats Pooh (voice of Jim Cummings) and his friends as part of our collective imagination.

Pooh is in crisis: He's run out of honey. Eeyore (voice of Bud Luckey) has lost his tail again. The solution to both problems is obvious: Hold a contest judged by Christopher Robin to find the depressed donkey a replacement. The prize, Pooh suggests of course, will be a pot of honey. The only thing keeping the bear from the edible trophy is the fact that Piglet (voice of Travis Oates), Owl (voice of Craig Ferguson), Rabbit (voice of Tom Kenny), Kanga (voice of Kristen Anderson-Lopez), and Roo (voice of Wyatt Dean Hall) want to help their now tailless friend reclaim the very little that's left of his pride.

They aren't the brightest bunch, these imaginary friends of Christopher Robin. Their ideas for substitute tails result in bad news for Eeyore, and, worse, Christopher Robin disappears before the real winner can be rewarded. Owl, who seems on the surface to be the smartest of the group but is far too involved in his own perceived intelligence to do any better than the rest, translates a mysterious note left by their human pal and winds up causing even more problems. Their friend has been kidnapped, he declares, by the most terrible beast in the history of ever: the "Backson" (At the end of the song about the mythical monster, Owl sings the phrase "back soon" and thinks that it sounds familiar for some reason).

The misunderstanding leads all the woodland companions to separate. Pooh and Piglet try foraging for honey ("The bees are quite gentle," the little piggy is surprised to learn before Pooh gets too anxious and upsets them). Eeyore joins up with Tigger (voice of Cummings as well), the bouncy, hyperactive tiger (Note the detail of the texture of his stripes and marvel at the simple wonders of traditional, hand-drawn animation), to hesitantly learn the ways of being a bouncy, hyperactive tiger (He does not do well, needless to say). The rest decide to spring a trap, and the moment an empty jar of honey is placed on blanket over a deep pit, even the youngest in the audience know what will happen when Pooh, with his honey addiction, finds it.

There isn't much story here, but there doesn't need to be either. Simplicity is key. The solid songs, old and new, drive the plot forward and lend some amusement (particularly when the gang tries to come up with a list of things on which to blame the Backson). The gags are, at times, very funny, especially the inclusion of an interactive narrator (John Cleese) and book in which they live (Words form a ladder, and when the camera pans out, it's revealed those words address the detail that they've formed one).

Winnie the Pooh is bright, cheerful, and succinct (The feature itself, without credits, is just shy of an hour).  That's the way it's always been, though, and a reunion with old friends is always worthwhile.

Copyright 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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