Thursday, July 14, 2011

Winnie the Pooh (2011)

7.14.11.Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh
Dir. Stephen Anderson and Don Hall

3.5 out of 5

Disney’s latest revival of A.A. Milne’s classic characters, Winnie the Pooh, is a charming ode to the most leisurely and lackadaisical parts of childhood, the type of movie where tumbling into a hole and finding your way out qualifies as a rip-snorting adventure. It is the cinematic equivalent of playtime. The movie’s brief live-action bookends – sumptuous pans through a nursery where Pooh and friends are realized as a menagerie of toys and plush animals – drive this point home.

Of course, these scenes are also ironic, as Milne’s creations have been merchandised so thoroughly that the Pooh “reboot” (a semi-blasphemous term to apply to beloved children’s literature) owes its existence to the Disney commercial juggernaut. And Pooh doesn’t have a narrative – it revolves around a mystery involving Eeyore’s missing tail – so much as a collection of expected character traits. Rabbit is persnickety. Tigger bounces. Piglet is timid. Pooh tweaks on honey. This is what makes any Pooh story so predictable, and it’s also what makes the stories so good. It’s the imagination’s comfort food.

Pooh is a lushly-animated cinematic storybook, and is nearly as brief – the feature runs no more than an hour. Anyone who’s old enough to tie their own shoes will find that this is the perfect length. And what the film lacks in depth it makes up in warmth, metatextual humor (characters often careen through the words of the book being “read” by the narrator), and catchy musical numbers (Zooey Deschanel’s chanteuse-y take on the “Winnie the Pooh” theme is a standout). I should also point out that a wonderful animated short, The Ballad of Nessie, precedes the feature, an unexpectedly moving tale about the origins of the Loch Ness Monster that might outshine the main attraction. Pooh certainly matches Nessie in cuteness; I just wish it could possess the same amount of heart.

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