I'm a 38-year-old man, and I have to admit it - I have a soft spot for Winnie the Pooh.
Lucky for me I still have a daughter young enough to justify going to see the newest Pooh movie, simply titled Winnie the Pooh, while it was still in theatres. She and I watched the trailer for the film last night, and it used an oddly-fitting Keane song - "Somewhere Only We Know" - to tug at the hearts of old softies like me. When she asked to see it today, I was an easy mark. Of course I said yes.
I was a little afraid that the filmmakers would overuse modern animation techniques and the tendency towards the dramatic seen in most Disney films these days, but I was delighted to find that my fears were unfounded. For the most part they stuck to the original Pooh cartoons I loved so much in both tone and technique.
This Pooh has the same goofy charm and sense of innocence of its predecessors. It ignores modern technology and trendiness and gets to the heart of the story - a boy's imaginary world with the stuffed animals he loves: bouncy Tigger, shy Piglet, depressed Eeyore, wise Owl, lovable Kanga and Roo, and of course, the rumbly-tumbly bear of very little brain himself, Pooh. These are familiar characters in a familiar situation, and the Disney team behind this new movie made the wise decision not to mess with something that works.
They get Pooh - from the silly verbal misunderstandings to the simple morality of helping a friend before helping yourself, from the slightly hallucinogenic golden honey sequence induced by Pooh's hunger to the repeated celebration of anyone who can find a new tail for Eeyore (as if he didn't have enough problems!) - it all comes together like a Winnie the Pooh story should, right down to the characters playing amidst the text of the story itself. There's nothing complex or deep about it, nobody gets left behind or hurt, and moral dilemmas are solved clearly and simply, as if the right answer was always the obvious one.
Simply put, this is the way a Pooh story should feel.
Of course, the adult in me noticed a few extra modern touches. I was absolutely tickled to hear the sweet voice of Zooey Deschanel singing some of the songs in the movie, and the song played over the closing credits was all her, while very much in the right feel for Pooh. It was a little jarring to hear different voices for the characters - while Jim Cummings completely nails the voice of Pooh himself, his take on Tigger sounds a little more like Jim Carrey. The others try, but the difference is there. On the other hand, hearing John Cleese as the warm-voiced narrator chatting with Pooh throughout was simply delightful.
The animation uses the same simple lines and flat colors of the original Pooh Disney cartoons, with only a rare dip into computer animation. A swarm of bees might have been a rough scribble in the original but was almost certainly rendered digitally now. The letters of the story falling into a pit also looked a little too clean to be hand-drawn. But these were minor deviations, and overall the visual style was all Pooh, as uncomplicated as the bear himself.
My daughter loved it too - she smiled and laughed throughout. I was pleased that she's not so jaded at 10 that she can't enjoy a fun story like this, even though it hearkened back to a simpler time of simpler stories than she is used to, among her explorations of Harry Potter and Spiderwick Chronicles. Pooh works for her on the same level it works for me, and maybe that's all that needs to be said.
The new Winnie the Pooh is a gentle ode to a simpler time and a simpler storytelling style. I may have a soft spot for it...but I'm clearly not the only one.
*** out of **** If you are young at heart, and often find yourself seeing things as if you were a wide-eyed child fixated on personal fascination, then Disney's newest "Winnie the Pooh" film might just appeal to you. It certainly did the trick for me. It was intended as a reboot or revival of a once great franchise; one that never quite went down the drain and kept its charm for some time, but has since been restrained to CGI-animated television series and the like. Basically, … more
Star Rating: Winnie the Pooh is charming, innocent, uncomplicated, sweet, and often times quite funny. It isn’t, however, so innocuous that it neglects adults, which is good because I’m sure many of them will dutifully take their children to see it. In three distinct ways, it represents the rediscovery of one’s roots. The first is in respect to Disney, who have gone the extra mile and made a traditional cel-animated film; I was convinced I … more