Saturday, July 16, 2011

Movie Review: Winnie the Pooh

A few months ago, when we wrote our annual Futures Market post, we made it clear that while we are excited about the finale of the Potter franchise (we'll get to it soon), we were far more excited that Disney was revisiting the Hundred Acre Wood. The months since then have changed nothing.

On opening night, we trekked to the theater, purchased our tickets, laughed at those in the crowded lines outside the sold-out showings of Harry Potter, and went in to enjoy the first true G-rated movie we've seen in years. Sure, Cars was technically rated G, but it was a G-rating enhanced with torture, murder, assassination, and dead bodies. Winnie the Pooh had none of these things (well, perhaps a little unintentional torture perpetrated by Tigger, but it was all in good fun).

The movie is, above all else, charming. Disney has thrown out decades of cloying Pooh movies and television shows made to cash in on the franchise, and returned stylistically to their original shorts. The animation is more or less as it was, and the voice casting is topnotch. John Cleese's narration was fantastic, and Craig Ferguson's casting as Owl was inspired. Not surprisingly, though, the movie was stolen by the legendary Bud Luckey, whose interpretation of Eeyore surpassed even the original.

This feels like a sequel to the "Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh," and, aside from a brief CG-fueled dream about honey, it looks like it could have been released in the 1970's. It's as funny and sweet as it should be, and it's a pleasure to see this style of animation back on the big screen.

That said, there was certainly room for improvement. The movie is based on three of Milne's original stories, but rather than keep them separate, the script drops the chapter structure and fuses them together, ostensibly into a single narrative. That the individual plot-lines never coalesce isn't an issue - Pooh endures because of the strength of its individual moments, not its overarching story - that they abandoned the opportunity to retain the segmented chapters of the original is a bit disappointing.

In addition, neither the music or songs pack quite the punch we wanted. Nothing is offensively bad, but neither does it connect. The score, in particular, tries too hard to be something new. If the animation is classic Pooh, why not the sound? Why not use the original compositions?

Ultimately, though, for fans of the original, this is pure nostalgia. It's beautiful and light, hilarious and gentle. On a five star scale relative to the original, we award this four.

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