As big a Disney fan as I am, I've never been a huge fan of their Winnie the Pooh films. Heck, I haven't seen the last few they've done at all. So when they announced they were doing a new one, it wasn't on my list of films to see. But a friend really wanted to go, so I decided to go with her (after all, she's gone to several unusual movies for me). I'm glad she talked me into it because it was a delightful film.
Our story opens on a typical morning when Winnie the Pooh (voiced by Jim Cummings) wakes up to a rumbly in the tumbly. Shocked to realized that he is out of honey (or hunny as they spell it in these movies), Winnie the Pooh sets out into the Hundred Acre Woods to visit his friends, hoping to get some breakfast. His first stop is Eeyore (Bud Luckey) who is missing something - his tail. And so the friends band together to try to come up with a suitable new one for him.
As the search goes on, Winnie the Pooh makes the discovery that Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter) is missing. All they have is the note he left behind. Owl (Craig Ferguson) reads it and determines that Christopher Robin has been kidnapped by a Backson, a horrid beast that wakes babies in the middle of the night and messes up your Christmas lights. Can they trap it and get back Christopher Robin? Will they ever find a tail for Eeyore? And will Winnie the Pooh ever get some honey?
One of my biggest issues with the old Winnie the Pooh movies was the use of the book format for telling the story, including a narrator who interacted with the characters and us going into and out of the pictures on the pages. And yet, that was probably the biggest thing I was glad to see they'd kept. The movie even opens with a modern arrangement of the classic theme song. They did leave Gopher (whose not in the book, you know) out of things.
As for the plot, it was interesting because they started a story, interrupted it with another, resolved that one, and then resolved the first one. That makes for a different structure than we're used to seeing, but they actually tied the elements from these two stories together well enough that I think it works. What I find most interesting here is I remember the story of the missing tail from the books, but I believe the Backson is a complete invention for this movie.
Speaking of the Backson, I think very few children will have trouble with him at all. The showing I saw today was filled with young kids, and I didn't hear any of them crying during those scenes. He's always played for laughs even when some of the characters are scared of him.
The songs written for this movie are okay. I don't think they are the classic stuff that the Sherman Brothers wrote for the originals, but they are entertaining and progress the story. If the movie has one weakness, this is probably it.
I also had some problems with the voice cast. I'm not talking about their acting because they all did great jobs with that. But some of the voices, Christopher Robin and Kanga especially, are different from how I remember them. That was jarring at first, but soon I got used to it. Again, it's minor.
One thing I always admired about the originals was how closely they captured the spirit of the illustrations from the book. They have recaptured that feeling. Granted, it's been years since I watched the movie, but this seems to be an almost identical match for the style from almost 45 years ago. That includes some details lines to the backgrounds that are beautiful. It makes me want more hand drawn animation.
What surprised me was just how funny the movie was. My friend and I were laughing the entire way through it. And it really is cute and charming. This is a movie that you can take your kids to and know they will enjoy. Adults? Well, you've got to remember the target audience, but if you can sit back and recapture your inner child, you'll enjoy it, too. This isn't great cinema, but it's not trying to be. It's trying to be a movie that's a little over an hour of light, fun entertainment.
Before the feature, there's a short that tells us "The Ballad of Nessie," of Loch Ness fame. Like the feature, it's cute.
You'll want to stay through the credits. Not only are there fun bits of animation with the characters as the credits roll (and some great stuff with the stuffed animals, too), but there's a scene after the credits play that is hilarious. Trust me, you don't want to miss it.
So I am glad I went to see Winnie the Pooh. It surpassed my expectations with it's charm and wit. It's a movie that the kid in everyone will enjoy.