Winnie the Pooh Directed by: Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall Cast: (Voices of) John Cleese, Jim Cummings, Bud Luckey, Craig Ferguson, Tom Kenny Running Time: 1 hr 9 mins Rating: G Release Date: July 15, 2011
PLOT: During a regular old day in Hundred Acre Wood, Winnie the Pooh (Cummings) sets out to find some honey. But first, he and his friends must try to find Eeyore’s tail, and Christopher Robin.
WHO'S IT FOR? The humor and cleverness of this movie help it transcend age limits - its not just for tiny human beings who are more accustomed to having books read to them than any other method.
With the total Winnie the Pooh film clocking around 54 minutes, it's a kind courtesy by the creative talent involved to offer a short to at least bump the experience to a near 70 minute running time (possibly more towards 80 total with previews). Unfortunately, while The Ballad of Nessie does have some fun wordplay to properly lead into this Pooh story, it is also a strange little story. Nessie's lesson is that kids shouldn't be afraid to cry, because then things will eventually work out for them, or something along those lines. While it is certainly animated to Disney expectations (the argyle backgrounds are a nice touch), its story is muddled and oddly dark. I'm not sure swimming in tears is as cute as the Disney folk might have thought it to be.
Continuing his charismatic work from the preceding short, John Cleese is an affable narrator who guides the readers and the characters through this little tale with the help of the visuals of the actual book being read from. For children, this will be a great way to nudge them towards understanding the potential of words. In the world of Pooh, especially with this movie, words are not just things printed on a page, but tools of endless possibilities. This message comes across more clearer here than it even does in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
This little story's biggest laughs come from humdrum side character Eeyore, whose testing of many prototype tails always provides a slapstick giggle, as followed by the gloomy's character endearing pessimistic mumbles. While The Hundred Acre Wood might be filled with peppy characters like the bouncy Tigger or the honey-obsessed Pooh, Eeyore is the strangest character in the group and also the funniest. At least, according to myself and the loud laughs of hardened middle-aged male movie critics from my particular screening.
One of the film's more surprising of precious moments is its soundtrack, which is colored with a few songs sung by Zooey Deschanel. With the production assistance of her main collaborate M. Ward, Deschanel's voice gives a direct nod reference to the idiom "sweet as honey," with tunes like "A Very Important Thing To Do" and the hypnotic "Honey," which has her harmonizing with herself in a Beach Boys-like arrangement. Her singing of the "Winnie the Pooh" theme song is worthy of previous renditions, but it maintains a proper hip distance to sound fresh. A clap-happy song "So Long" takes audiences out of the theater (even though there is something oo"importnt" after the credits!)
Even without comparing it to a gluttonous summer menu of remakes and money-driven sequels (Cars 2), Winnie the Pooh has a touching pureness to it. It doesn't introduce new characters, it doesn't even try to make the existence of Winnie and his friends any more complicated (a honey dream sequence/musical number is the movie's most elaborate moment). Instead, it's honestly clever with the minor adventures that it puts these golden characters into. The conflicts they face are small, but in good storytelling fashion are bound together neatly like a delectable little book.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10