Winnie the Pooh
Measures Up to Expectations

I thoroughly enjoyed Winnie the Pooh—and it’s a good thing, because I expected to!

All too often, you read a ton of good notices about a film and get your hopes up only to have them dashed.  This was not the case here.  Everything good I’d heard about Pooh was pretty much true—and my expectations were more or less completely fulfilled.

In an era of reboots, remakes, and reinventions, Disney instead opts here for a simple and low-key approach that merely hews closely to the source material—without a lot of fanfare or folderol. In a faithful adaption of Milne’s original Winnie-the-Pooh, the filmmakers simply tell of Pooh’s endless search for honey, Eeyore’s search for his tail, and a misguided search for Christopher Robin and the dreaded Backson.  It’s been over forty years since I’ve read Milne’s books, but this Pooh hits the mark as well as any filmed adaptation.  As near as I can tell.

Christopher Robin in Winnie the Pooh

And it does so by choosing an animation style suited to the material: watercolor-inspired backdrops, simple two-dimensional colored drawings for the foreground characters, and a clever (and literal) interaction with the source text.  No 3-D gimmicks, no death-eyed motion-capture technology, no sophisticated CGI modeling (though, naturally, computers were no doubt extensively employed in the process).  This is not animation that draws attention to the craft; it’s fimmaking that draws attention to the characters, and to the story.

Most people probably think it’s hard to go wrong with Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Rabbit, and the rest—but think how many times other efforts have come up somewhat short.  Here, the vocal characterizations are not only spot-on (as is usually the case), but the characters themselves come alive with story arcs that actually illustrate personalities.  (And, I must say, the scene-cutting decisions—although yielding an almost scandalously short theatrical release at less than 55 actual story minutes—were quite sound.  The film, as it stands, needs absolutely nothing more to flesh it out or deepen the experience.)

Still… while I nonetheless enjoyed the experience of watching the film—and learning the major lesson: that sometimes we must forego our own wants in the interest of helping our friends—I ended up feeling that I enjoyed the film because I wanted to.

The animation is not cream-of-the-crop; the characterizations are not seminal; the story is not ground-breaking; the songs are not particularly catchy.  This is extremely solid storytelling and filmmaking—but it’s not ultimately very memorable or bold.

And that’s okay.  It still lives up to expectations.

But what does that say about our expectations these days?

With regard to special features… both the DVD and Blu-ray feature a collection of “deleted scenes”—which, in the world of animated, really aren’t “deleted” as much as they are uncompleted storyboard sequences.  I am not a fan of these, and this set is probably weaker than many I’ve seen.  The bonus short film The Ballad of Nessie, narrated by John Cleese, is clever if not spectacular, and Mini-Adventures of Winnie the Pooh: The Balloon is also pleasant enough if instantly forgettable.  Probably the best offering of the Blu-ray is the Cleese-hosted Winnie the Pooh and His Story Too… but with such a short feature film, the whole package is awfully thin and doesn’t seem to justify its purchase price.

Winnie the Pooh is rated G.  Absolutely!

Courtesy of a national publicist, Greg screened a promotional copy of Winnie the Pooh.