The best thing about this new “Winnie the Pooh” is that it is very much like the films that came before it—timeless and wholesome. Based on the classic series of books by A. A. Milne dating back to the 1920s, “Winnie the Pooh (2011)” is a unique animated entry into a marketplace crowded by 3D and computer generated offerings.
Ever since “Shrek” turned the kid’s film on its head by mixing more mature and edgy elements with childlike ones, animated films have walked a fine line coming ever so close to being too adult for the youngest audience members. But “Pooh” steps far away from such a trend giving family audiences an entertaining and harmless yarn featuring some of the most beloved cartoon characters of all time.
In “Winnie the Pooh,” Pooh awakens one morning to discover that he’s completely out of honey. His search for the sweet and delicious nectar leads him to Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter), who has left a mysterious note about being “back soon.” Naturally, Pooh seeks the assistance of Owl (Craig Ferguson) who interprets the note as a scary warning—Christopher Robin may have been captured by the evil beast known as the “Backson.” Capturing the vicious Backson becomes an instant community wide priority superior even to the hunt for honey. And preparations for the apprehension of the beast are made by Pooh with the help of Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Kanga, Roo, and Eeyore. Everyone enthusiastically joins in.
An amusing subplot involves a quest to replace Eeyore’s lost tail. Eeyore (Bud Luckey), the loveable curmudgeon, will likely remain miserable whether his original tail is located or replaced with something new and special. And everything from a cuckoo clock to a red balloon are tried barely lifting Eeyore’s spirits but providing viewers with more than a few old fashioned chuckles.
Veteran voice actor Jim Cummings delivers another quality performance giving voice once again to Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too. Cummings, who has a lengthy list of voice roles, has played Pooh since the 1980s, and it is good that Disney stayed with Cummings instead of going for an entire cast of popular actors of the minute. Comic actors like Jack Black may be terrific as Po in “Kung Fu Panda,” but a true voice actor like Cummings has made Pooh his own–a familiar voice for a long cherished character.
“Winnie the Pooh” goes old school all the way around. It is beautiful 2D hand-drawn animation. And this approach works exceptionally well on the big screen, giving viewers a taste of what is coming with the “The Lion King” re-release. In September, we’ll see an updated “Lion King” with the 3D treatment. While the clips I’ve seen of the 3D version look terrific, “Winnie the Pooh” is just fine without the special 3D glasses.
Refreshingly unpolluted by the modern trend in kid’s animated fare, “Winnie the Pooh” will play well to young viewers and their parents eager to revisit the Hundred Acre Wood.