LAFF 2011 Review: WINNIE THE POOH
Editor's note: This review was originally published as a Los Angeles Film Festival review on June 27, 2011.
Writers: Stephen J. Anderson (story), Clio Chiang (story), Don Dougherty (story), Don Hall (story), Brian Kesinger (story), Nicole Mitchell (story), Jeremy Spears (story), A.A. Milne ("Winnie the Pooh" works), Ernest Shepard ("Winnie the Pooh" works), Paul Briggs (additional story material), Chris Ure (additional story material)
Directors: Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall
Cast: Jim Cummings, John Cleese, Jack Boulter, Bud Luckey, Travis Oates, Craig Ferguson, Tom Kenny, Kristen Anderson-Lopez
Everyone has a toy, cartoon, or comic book from their childhood that still brings a smile to their face, even years later. WINNIE THE POOH is a story many of us grew up with and one that still holds a special place in our hearts. With a theater full of adults looking to revisit their old friends, along with children watching a movie in the theater for the first time, the air was full of anticipation as we waited to visit the Hundred Acre Wood.
The film opens with the camera panning over Christopher Robin’s (Jack Boulter) real-life bedroom, pausing on the toys and objects that have been noted throughout the “Winnie the Pooh,” series from the red balloon to his collection of books. These layered details worked to not only inspire nostalgia in those familiar with the world of WINNIE THE POOH, but to also create that magical world for those experiencing it for the first time.
The stories of WINNIE THE POOH are usually based around the group embarking on an adventure – usually due to a misunderstanding from not being able to read a certain word to mistaking a pile of clothes for a monster. Seeing as Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, and friends are figments of Robin’s child-like imagination, it makes sense as these adventures are created as ones that could feasibly come from a child’s mind. In doing so, the adventures appeal to kids watching and are a sweet reminder to the adults of a simpler time when a problem could quickly be turned into a game.
This latest story in the WINNIE THE POOH series revolves around some of the classic elements of Pooh’s (Jim Cummings) world, from searching for a pot of honey to settle his rumbly tummy (which all but becomes a character itself) to looking for Eeyore’s (Bud Luckey) constantly-lost tail to creating a terrifying monster the group must band together to trap. Even as one event spirals into a new one, WINNIE THE POOH takes care to tie all the narratives together in the end while underscoring the film’s overall message about friendship.
In classic Disney fashion, the film also features catchy songs throughout that kids (and adults) can quickly catch the beat of and work to drive the story along while staying true to the film's message. Joining the ranks of other well-known artists who have lent their voices to Disney films (such as Elton John and Michael Bolton), Zooey Deschanel’s sweet, slightly child-like voice gives an added sense of whimsy singing the classic “Winnie The Pooh,” plus a few new songs such as “So Long” and “A Very Important Thing To Do.”
WINNIE THE POOH has always taken care to remind those watching its films that it is based on book, having the characters run from page to page, interacting with the words and letters as much as one another. It is a wonderful staple of the WINNIE world, as it not only encourages reading, it also helps kids become excited by it. From Tigger (Jim Cummings) trying to turn a ‘Q’ into an instrument to Eeyore (Buck Luckey) running off with entire sentences, it is made clear that the words that make up the story are just as important as the story itself.
WINNIE THE POOH fits right in with the series and works to engage both established fans and new ones. There were a few unsettling moments with a scary gag running a bit too long for kids and an unexpected turn from one of the more seemingly innocent characters, but it is a delightful film overall filled with humor and fun for both kids and adults. And stick around through the end credits for some additional (and hilarious) extra tidbits.