Directed by: Stephen J. Anderson (Meet the Robinsons) & Don Hall
Starring: (voices) John Cleese, Jim Cummings, Bud Luckey, Craig Ferguson, Jack Boulter
Though it may come as a shock to many regular readers, Disney’s Winnie the Pooh was not made for me. Even when I was age-appropriate for Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and the other residents of the Hundred Acre Wood—which I only ever encountered via the cartoons, not the books—the stories never did much for me. At best, they were harmless distractions, at worst, they were flat-out obnoxious.
I suppose this is because I never warmed to the characters: Pooh and his whiny gluttony; Tigger and his manic fits; or Piglet and his milquetoast timidness. Only Eeyore, with his chronic bouts of depression, seemed to be the relatable one. His state of mind in the morass of his neighbors’ neuroses—which is even weirder when you realize that the entire story is all some kid’s fever dream—is completely understandable. But at the same time, I always realized that the purpose of Winnie the Pooh was to be entertainment for those unfortunate kids who lacked the refined pre-adolescent tastes I had, and who didn’t want to watch mutated reptiles fight robotic ninjas.
With this in mind, I can say that while I find this latest Winnie the Pooh a bit on the dull side and painfully, tooth-achingly twee, that’s also exactly what it’s supposed to be. The entire purpose of Winnie the Pooh is to exist as harmless, adorable entertainment. Within these limited aims, the film accomplishes just that. There’s a simple plot involving Eeyore (voiced by Bud Luckey) losing his tail, and his friends’ attempts to find a suitable replacement. This is really all the plot the film has—or needs—as we go through a series of small setpieces and forgettable musical numbers. The film never attempts much more than this, and is never expected to. Within minutes of the start, Zooey Deschanel is singing the movie’s theme song, making it’s hard not to guess exactly how painfully adorable the next 70 minutes of your life will be.
The film does have some clever bits here and there, especially in the way it breaks the fourth wall of its storybook theme. There is a good amount of charm as well, but it’s pretty innocuous charm, with little substance or excitement. But that’s the Winnie the Pooh m.o., and is certainly to be expected, meaning fans of the film’s previous incarnations will be more than pleased, while everyone else wasn’t going to watch it in the first place. Rated G