July 15, 2011

It’s refreshing to see a family film that is completely without cynicism or even awareness of pop culture.  Winnie the Pooh opens with a live-action shot of the bedroom of stuffed animals and the narrator (John Cleese) tells us, without the slightest hint of irony, that the bedroom could belong to any young boy.  The room has no video games, posters, or other mass-produced merchandise.  It’s a bedroom for a young boy in 1920s England which is when and where Winnie the Pooh was created.  The new Disney film based on A.A. Milne’s popular characters firmly holds to that time period and that innocence and comes away with an absolutely charming and lovable movie that is clever, funny, and adorable.

I’m still astonished that Winnie the Pooh doesn’t feel stale.  It has stories you’ve come to expect: Pooh wants honey, Eeyore has lost his tale, Tigger needs to be the center of attention, but there’s also a fresh tale where Pooh and his friends misread a note from Christopher Robin and believe their friend/creator has been kidnapped by a monster known as the “Backson”.  Intertwined with this story to catch the mythical Backson are some cute musical number and delightful storytelling that breaks the fourth wall but never in a self-congratulatory fashion.

The greatest contribution to keeping Winnie the Pooh fresh is how it frames the story.  Cleese narrates the story and we can see the characters as part of a book.  But then the animators—who have drawn a beautiful film that makes me long for more 2D animation—start playing around with the format and have the characters start interacting with the letters on the page.  It even goes so far as Pooh asking what a paragraph is and the narrator having to explain it as Pooh climbs down the sentences.  That small creative spark goes a long way to helping set this movie apart from the forgettable Pooh films of the past decade.

Winnie the Pooh has never been my favorite property simply because I find all of the characters so irritating.  Pooh is an addict in withdrawal, Piglet is a coward, Tigger is obnoxious, Owl is pretentious, Eeyore is a depressive, and Rabbit is selfish.  There’s no reason I should like Winnie the Pooh but the movie is handled with such innocence in tone but confidence in its familiarity that I wasn’t bothered by the defining personality trait of each character.  The filmmakers managed to make all of the characters work off each other so that while individually they may be slightly annoying, together their flaws become cute and humorous.  There’s a quick wit that parents will appreciate but the movie never makes it a point to go over the heads of the young children its intended for.  This is the first real G-rated movie to come along in a while and it’s comforting to see a movie that doesn’t need a fart joke to make kids laugh.  The movie also doesn’t overstay its welcome and comes in at slightly under 70 minutes long.  It’s a smart move because you can really only have Pooh whining for so long about how he wants honey.

I went into Winnie the Pooh expecting some quality 2D animation and not much else.  Instead, Disney Animation Studios have not only produced yet another gorgeous and inspired 2D animated movie, but provided a charming story to go along with it.  Winnie the Pooh is a rarity in today’s marketplace.  It’s not about trying to sell you more stuff or calculating how many demographics it can hit.  It simply wants to give young kids a movie they can love and let adults set their cynicism aside to enjoy clever humor and delightful characters.

Rating: B+


  • Pingback: WINNIE THE POOH Review | Celebrity Gossip()

  • Pingback: ‘Winnie the Pooh:’ What Critics Say « Heptanews * Entertainment * Politics * Opinions * U.S. * Technology * Health * Leisure * World * Sports()

  • AlexHeyNa

    The interaction with the sentences on the page and the narrator speaking to the characters is what makes me want to see this movie. That concept comes from the original “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh”, which I had on VHS as a kid. It was my favorite movie for a long time, and watching now brings back such great feelings, that it makes me excited to see a fresh take on Winnie the Pooh, even if the stories seem stale.

    Thanks for the review, Matt!

  • The Train!

    i didn’t even know a winnie the pooh movie was coming until about a week ago. it’s such a nice surprise! and even better, apparently it’s a good movie!

  • Pingback: Winnie the Pooh What Critics Say — HaLaMovie()

  • Pingback: Critics Hailing Disney’s New “Winnie The Pooh” As “Gorgeous And Inspired” | FEELguide()

  • Yirmin Snipe

    I too grew up with memories of Winnie the Pooh… but sadly this movie is not nearly as good or endearing as the original. Would probably say it ranks below some of the other straight to DVD Pooh movies.

    Animation was sub-par…. characters personalities were changed from the original… some characters were drawn different (Tigger was supposed to have sharp pointed strips, to have black on orange with a bit of orange showing through not rounded black stripes with brown on top)… Songs weren’t catchy enough to stay in your head (like “I’m just a little black rain cloud”)…

    I could go on… suffice it to say you are much better off using the money going to the movies to buy a good copy of the orignal on disc.

  • TJCA

    As movies go, a family rating is fair, as there is nothing over the top offensive in this movie. That being said… if I had to describe my reaction in one line, it would be “I hated it”.

    The newer pooh movies, and even SE’s kingdom hearts games, had some modernization thrown in, but they stlll managed to keep the original charm and character of the first film. But this film butchers their characters, Owl’s most of all, who seemed like a cross of Rabbit and some Sherlock Holmes character, complete with the sarcastic attitude. By the time Roo says “Make the pig do it!” and “Give it to the swine!” (or similiar, not completely sure what the exact line was) I was no longer shocked by the borderline rudeness of the characters. In other shows, that wouldn’t be odd, but in Pooh, no one treats each other like that.

    Owl and Rabbit’s voices were completely different. Christopher’s wasn’t as bad, but still off, and Kanga, well, her voice hasn’t been right since the first movies anyway. Her personality was just as changed though.

    Much of the movie reminded me of older disney style, which I would have liked if the movie were Disney’s Robin Hood. The songs, some of them were ok, but out of style for Pooh. It was like the whole team was making another movie, and then told they had to make it Winnie the Pooh instead.

    I WANT Disney to make these 2D movies, I enjoy them ever so much more than 3D, but they keep missing the mark for me in the end. Princess and the Frog was ok… I was hoping this would be really good… but I don’t understand what they were thinking.