Sometimes the old things are the best things, and the best thing about this new Winnie the Pooh is that its spirit is very much like the films that came before it—timeless and wholesome. Based on the classic series of books by A. A. Milne dating back to the 1920s, Winnie the Pooh (2011) is a welcome and unique animated entry into a marketplace crowded by 3D and computer generated offerings.
Ever since _Shrek_turned the kid’s film genre on its head by mixing more mature and edgy elements with childlike ones, animated films have walked a fine line, coming ever so close to being too adult for the youngest audience members (and sometimes crossing that line). But _Pooh_steps far away from such a trend, giving family audiences an entertaining and harmless yarn featuring some of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time.
In the new film, Pooh awakens one morning to discover that he’s completely out of honey. His search for the sweet and delicious nectar leads him to Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter), who has left a mysterious note about being “back soon.” Naturally, Pooh seeks the assistance of Owl (Craig Ferguson), who interprets the note as a scary warning—Christopher Robin may have been captured by the evil beast known as the “Backson.” Capturing the vicious Backson becomes an instant community-wide priority, superior even to the hunt for honey. And preparations to apprehend of the beast are made by Pooh with the help of Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Kanga, Roo and Eeyore. Everyone enthusiastically joins in.
An amusing subplot involves a quest to replace Eeyore’s lost tail. Eeyore (Bud Luckey), the loveable curmudgeon, will likely remain miserable whether his original tail is located or replaced with something new and special. And everything from a cuckoo clock to a red balloon are tried, barely lifting Eeyore’s spirits but providing viewers with more than a few old fashioned chuckles.
Veteran voice actor Jim Cummings delivers another quality performance giving voice once again to Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too. Cummings, who has a lengthy list of voice roles, has played Pooh since the 1980s, and it’s good that Disney stayed with Cummings instead of going for an entire cast of popular actors of the minute. Comic actors like Jack Black may be terrific as Po in “Kung Fu Panda,” but a true voice actor like Cummings has made Pooh his own—a familiar voice for a long cherished character.
Winnie the Pooh goes old school all the way around. It is beautiful 2D hand-drawn animation. And this approach works exceptionally well on the big screen. In September, we’ll see an updated Lion King with the 3D treatment. But while the clips of the 3D version look terrific, Winnie the Pooh is just fine without the special 3D glasses.
Especially for children too young to make it through the long (and PG-13 rated) Harry Potter epic, Winnie the Pooh is just the ticket. The brisk 69-minute running time will make it an excellent afternoon matinee selection. Refreshingly unpolluted by the modern trend in kid’s animated fare, Winnie the Pooh will play well to young viewers and their parents eager to revisit the much-beloved Hundred Acre Wood.