Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I hate to begin a positive review so negatively, but screw all CG animation. If a one-hour feature (plus a five-minute short) can make me laugh and feel as much as this classically rendered WINNIE THE POOH did, then I'm in favor of banning it forever. What I wasn't prepared for was how instantaneously my childhood came rushing back to me.
I'm not sure if it was just seeing these wonderful characters back on the big screen (for the first time in 35 years) or hearing their voices again or seeing this collection of talking stuffed animals under the guidance of Christopher Robin, but my God, this one had me captivated. And as much as this film is clearly aimed at young children, there are going to be more than a few weepy and/or giddy adults by their side.
There is something undeniably moving about the innocence of Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne. And I'd forgotten how much I adore the supporting players as well. My favorite is still Eeyore, the depressive donkey, who clearly needs therapy and a steady dose anti-depressants. He's also the funniest of the Hundred Acre Woods gang. A contest is devised among the animals to replace Eeyore's missing tail. The prize is an overflowing jar of honey (or should I say hunny?), so the always hungry Pooh is hellbent on winning. These are the stakes of a typical Pooh story, and that's why my heart leapt out of my chest watching this glorious little movie.
Jim Cummings (who has been voicing Pooh and Tigger since the 1980s) gives Pooh the voice of an old soul, who is never confrontational and can rarely control his impulse to seek out and eat honey. A sequence involving Piglet and Pooh going after a bees nest is downright hysterical, partly due to Piglet being so agreeable as Pooh wantonly puts his life in danger to dislodge the nest. Rounding out the cast of characters are Rabbit (voiced by Tom Kenny), Owl (Craig Ferguson), and the mother-son team of Kanga and Roo (I'll let you figure out what animal they both are). To add the icing on the cake, John Cleese acts as narrator of WINNIE THE POOH.
A second story has the gang building an elaborate trap to capture the legendary (according to owl) woodland monster known as the Backson, who the group believes has kidnapped Christopher Robin. Naturally, the animals immediately get caught in their own trap. Directors Stephen J. Anderson (MEET THE ROBINSONS) and Don Hall (a great Disney story artist) hit all the right notes by keeping things simple and traditional. I especially liked the way the characters sometime bump into the letters of the book that features their story, or the letters tumble into the story if jostled. It's a gimmick that is used quite effectively.
WINNIE THE POOH avoids all the trappings of today's animated features. There's no 3D, no elaborately rendered backdrops, no zany voice actors. There's a grace and dignity to these creatures and to this simply told stories. I'm not sure how else to put it, but revisiting Pooh and his friends put me in a place where being a kid was fun and treasuring the small things was a fine art. This is a beautiful, elegant work that no child should miss.
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