WINNIE THE POOH
One of the most deservedly beloved children's stories of all time gets an affectionate filmic rendering notable for its delicate sense of restraint. Executed in the same elegant hand-drawn style of Disney's '60s and '70s era Pooh films, "Winnie the Pooh" retains an innocence of style and substance. Winnie (impeccably voiced by Jim Cummings, who also performs the voice of Tigger) interacts with pastel-colored storybook pages to bring the book's literal text to life with an appreciation for the words Pooh speaks. Still, "long words bother" him. Based on the fifth chapter from A. A. Milne's second Winnie the Pooh book "The House at Pooh Corner," the story involves the stuffed little honey-loving bear Pooh and his pals — Owl, Tigger, Piglet, Rabbit, Roo, and Eeyore — out on a journey to find, or at least replace, Eeyore's missing tail. Perhaps an umbrella, a balloon, or a chalk board will do. The gang also attempt to capture an invented monster known as a "Backson" — the result of a misspelled note left behind by Christopher Robin in which he meant to be back soon.
From an educational perspective, the lighthearted story places gentle importance on things like the value of proper spelling and putting friends and family first. The animals represent various character archetypes that range from slothful Eeyore, to impossibly energeticTigger. Piglet is the well-meaning youngest member, while Owl possesses an overblown sense of ego and wisdom. The otherwise inanimate toys need their boyhood master Christopher Robin to guide them into action. The filmmakers do an admirable job of making a palpable connection between Christopher Robin's stuffed animal collection to the imagined "Hundred Acre Wood" where his motley animal friends frolic. The closing title sequence reflects on the adventure with the stuffed toys placed as a child would play with them.
Gentle musical contributions hit a perfect pitch in line with the film's truly gifted vocal cast that includes John Cleese (the narrator), Craig Ferguson (the voice of Owl), and Jack Boulter (as the voice of Christopher Robin). The actors are clearly doing their best impressions of the franchise's iconic voices created by the likes of Sterling Holloway, Paul Winchell, and Sebastian Cabot. Zooey Deschanel's delightful singing on the theme song "So Long" is sweet enough to make you want to go back for more.
At just over an hour long, including an opening short cartoon "The Legend of Nessie," "Winnie the Pooh" is an ideal movie for the under ten set. This "Winnie the Pooh" is an instant classic.
Rated G. 63 mins. (A-) (Four Stars - out of five/no halves)
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