WINNIE THE POOH (U): On General Release Friday 15th April
Winnie the Pooh and friends have been delighting children and adults alike for over 85 years. In that time, there have been radio, TV and film adaptations and a plethora of extremely lucrative merchandising deals. Winnie The Pooh is the first theatrical feature in six years (Disney will have you believe 35 years – that’s true if you count original adaptations of A. A Milne’s work, but Pooh’s Heffalump Movie was released in 2005).
There’s no doubt as to its target audience; this isn’t a film that’s trying to bridge the gap between tweens and adults – this one’s aimed squarely at the younger demographic (but parental animation fans will probably get a kick out of it too). It’s actually no worse off for that as the scrapes that Pooh and friends get into, while no more horrific than escaping from a deep hole, finding a new tail for Eeyore or running away from an imagined monster, effortlessly convey the timeless charm of the characters.
This is in no small part to the vocal talents of Jim Cummings, who’s voiced Pooh and Tigger for over 20 years and who perfectly conveys the bewildered musings of the bear with very little brain and Tigger’s irrepressible hyperactivity.
It’s beautifully animated and while the characters have been given a bit of a spruce up (a highlight of which is Pooh’s imagined swim in a lake of honey dressed as a bee), the artwork doesn’t deviate from the original drawings. It also retains the meta-textual concept of the original cartoons and so it’s a delight to see characters interact with the text from which they came; Pooh hopping from one page to the next and using fallen letters from sentences as tools or toys.
It’s marred slightly by the songs, which are more irritating than catchy and Zooey Deschanel’s rendition of the classic Sherman Brothers theme tune is uninspiring – quite why she was chosen to sing it is a significant mystery.
At just under 70 minutes, it’s also a very brief adventure and represents a significant financial outlay for a family outing. This is ameliorated slightly by the inclusion of the short The Ballad Of Nessie which precedes the feature – a sweet tale of how the Loch Ness Monster came to live in her present home, narrated by Billy Connolly.
It’s as sweet as the honey that Pooh craves and will be a delight to animation fans of all ages but might be a bit of a pricey trip to the cinema if you’re watching your budget.