Film Review – Winnie the Pooh
It was with nostalgic curiosity that I went to the new feature film version of Winnie the Pooh. As a child, Winnie the Pooh cartoons and books were amongst my favorite entertainment. Ever since then, I’ve held a special place for them whenever I would see them in stores. After seeing the running time of this film listed at a brisk 69 minutes, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
Winnie the Pooh is definitely a film geared towards children; it doesn’t work on multiple levels like the movies from Pixar. It is definitely cute and the characters are very sweet, but there isn’t a lot of depth to anyone beyond what you see on the surface. Everyone has their schtick…Pooh is hungry, Piglet is scared, and Eeyore is grumpy. You won’t learn a lot about them beyond that. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the amazing animated films coming out the last few years, but this film feels like a one-trick pony.
The plot of the new movie is pretty simple. Pooh is searching for honey when a series of miscommunications leads the creatures of the 100 Acre Wood to believe that Christopher Robin has been kidnapped by a creature known as the ‘Backson.’ They hatch a plan to capture it and bring Christopher Robin back. All the while as this story unfolds, Pooh continues on his search for honey.
There isn’t really much in the way of a story arc, as a large portion of the time is spent on musical sequences and Abbott and Costello type comedy routines. At times it felt like they were adding filler given the already lean 69-minute running time. I’m not saying these sequences aren’t amusing, but they do grow a little repetitive as the film goes on. Seeing Pooh sing in an elaborate musical dream sequence about his love of honey is cute, but doesn’t really provide any character development. I can certainly imagine this not being an issue with children, but adults watching the movie may grow tired of it. Classic songs like Tigger’s theme are present as well to provide nostalgic triggers for the long-term Pooh fans.
Given the short length and pretty characteristic Pooh plot, this felt more like an episode of a TV show than a movie. In fact, as I was watching the movie I wondered whether one story would take up the entire time. While the film is enjoyable, I can’t give a particularly compelling reason to see this in the theater. There is nothing about this film that calls out to be seen on the big screen.
One of the more interesting storylines in the production of this film is John Lasseter’s involvement as the director of animation at Disney. His influence seems visibly clear from the beginning as a short film was attached to this movie, much like in the tradition of Pixar. It is nice to see resurgence in 2D animation, and I certainly hope this film is successful enough to continue that trend. The animation itself is quite nice, and I’m glad they did ruin it by trying to make the film 3D. One of the most pleasant parts of the movie for me was the opening and closing credits, in which they used photographs of stuffed animals in Christopher Robin’s room. It was a great nod to the real vs. imaginary world of the movie, and one of the parts that probably will engage adults as much as children.
Similarly, the voice talent does an admirable job. The original Winnie the Pooh movie is 45 years old, so none of the original voice talent are present, but there is a mixture of new and veteran Pooh actors rounding out the cast. It has been many years since I last watched a Winnie the Pooh movie or TV show, but all the voices fit within what I remembered. In particular I have to give credit to veteran Pooh voice actor Jim Cummings, whose work as both Pooh and Tigger is spot on. His excellent work clearly anchors the movie.
It is strange to see Winnie the Pooh as an adult. Part of me can still appreciate the silliness of it all. On the other hand, I couldn’t help but think Winnie is in need of an intervention for his honey addiction. It makes me want to go back and read the original novels to see how the character compares. I would highly recommend this film for children, though I do have reservations for adults—unless you have a particular attachment to Winnie the Pooh or have children, you are probably fine skipping it. Oh, and don’t expect to hear the Keane song from the trailer in the movie or you’ll be disappointed. The best you’ll get is a song from Zooey Deschanel over the end credits.
Final Grade: B-