Watching Disney’s new Winnie the Pooh film, simply entitled Winnie the Pooh, one might think that they’re watching something decades old. From the hand-drawn animation to the simple, relatable, story to the classic characters, the film harkens back to an older time while managing to be . It is also a brilliant good time. Nowhere near the first big screen adventure for the tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff, Winnie the Pooh nonetheless manages to breathe fresh air into a franchise that, perhaps had become a bit stale between film and TV adventures (particularly with its most recent, My Friends Tigger & Pooh series)
That is right, although not often considered it, Winnie the Pooh, directed by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall, easily falls into that all-too-popular Hollywood genre of “franchise reboot.” Not everything (nor everyone) has been jettisoned here though. Jim Cummings, who has provided the voice of Winnie the Pooh within Disney productions for years, returns here as the titular character as well as Tigger (another character whom he has voiced on many occasions). Travis Oates, who has voiced Piglet previously, returns as well. The rest of the voices (which include Craig Ferguson as Owl) may be new to Pooh, but none are so jarring so as to distress purists. In particular, John Cleese, who provides the narration, is quite good as the omniscient, ever-present, and sometimes moderately annoyed voice of reason.
Truth be told, there is really nothing here to upset anyone at all… provided you’ve liked Pooh and company in the past. Winnie the Pooh is an amusing, easily digested, not all too different from what has come before, film. And yet, for all of its easy-going, familiar attitude, it is manages to be a whole lot of fun.
The story itself goes back to different tales found in A.A. Milne’s Pooh books. One of these is about Eeyore losing his tale and the other main one involves a potentially dangerous—almost wholly mythical—monster. Certainly Eeyore’s tale has been the subject of much discussion in the Hundred Acre Wood through the years and while the usual mythical monster is a Heffalump (or potentially a Woozle), this film’s Backson is just as mythically horrible as the aforementioned would-be elephant.
Perhaps an easier way to put all of this is that if you enjoy a good Winnie the Pooh story you will quite enjoy Winnie the Pooh. If, on the other hand, you find the tales of Winnie the Pooh nonsensical, boring, and entirely foolish but not in a good way, you’re going to find Winnie the Pooh each and every one of those things. This reviewer, however, finds the complete affair bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun, fun, fun, fun, fun.
In one of the of the better musical scenes in the film, Pooh’s hunger leads him to hear the word “honey” in place of everything and then quickly to seeing everything turn into honey. Absolutely, it is a dream sequence (again, not new to the series), but Pooh’s exuberance for the stuff and the ways in which honey and honey pots are depicted, as much as anything, prove that the franchise still has a lot to give. Pooh may have a rude awakening from the dream, but the amusement for the audience doesn’t end until the credits stop rolling.
A throwback or not, there is nothing old school about the technical aspects of the release. The simplicity of the film’s look in no way stops it the background details from being impressive, the characters being utterly beautiful, and some of the more complicated scenes–like the aforementioned honey scene–from appearing truly dazzling. The film does offer several different looks and each is beautiful in this release, whether it’s one with muted colors or bright, brilliant ones. The sound design too, which is presented as a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, is simply (or complicatedly) wonderful. Sounds track well from one speaker to the next; the musical numbers are all encompassing; and even the smallest sounds, like the jostling of letters in a book, are distinct. As fantastical as the Hundred Acre Wood may be, it has never sounded more real.
The Blu-ray includes the short “The Ballad of Nessie” which showed before Winnie the Pooh in theaters as well as a Pooh “mini-adventure.” The Nessie story is about none other than the Loch Ness monster, and is just as whimsical and wonderful as the main feature. Also included are a sing-along, the ability to skip to the film’s songs, deleted scenes, and a making-of which is also narrated by Cleese. Pooh is in the making-of as well, and it is both an informative and enjoyable watch. There is also a somewhat unsettling piece about creating the perfect Winnie the Pooh nursery. Despite being brief (it clocks in at under three minutes) and even for a company which is sometimes exceedingly commercial, the branding of the nursery seems a little much.
That unfortunate, wholly skippable, blip aside, the new Winnie the Pooh is an incredibly good time for adults who grew up watching the characters of the Hundred Acre Wood and children alike. The character and his world are still clearly viable in ours and I look forward to more chances to visit them.