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Monday, July 18, 2011

Winnie the Pooh (Release Date: 7-15-2011)

        Feeling like it's been too long since you took a trip back in time with your favorite anthropomorphized stuffed toys? Disney is hoping that you do. Their first attempt to bring back the bear since 2005 (Pooh's Heffalump Movie) hasn't exactly been a ringing success so far, earning One dollar for every 21 grossed by Harry Potter this last weekend. It's a telling thing that Winnie the Pooh was the only mainstream movie willing to unveil itself on the same weekend as the boy wizard's climactic journey. Unlike the wands and witches epic, Disney's hand-drawn latest is gentle, unassuming, and modest. No wonder it couldn't find much of an audience.

        There's not much use in explaining the story to this One, as it meanders freely with the hopes and fears of its foolish and endearing characters. As a matter of fact, One can just about summarize the plot in Three easy steps: Eeyore (Bud Luckey) has misplaced his tale, Owl creates a misunderstanding that sets the whole group on edge, and poor old Pooh (Jim Cummings) just wants some honey. If that doesn't sound like enough to fill a full feature film runtime with... well, it's not... not even close, really. The feature is proceeded by a pretty adorable little animated short, then stuffed to the brim with musical numbers during its actual runtime, and even with all of that extra padding, the thing still calls it quits after a mere 69 minutes, making it far and away the shortest wide release of the year. I'm a big fan of movies that don't feel a need to spin their wheels, and by that standard, I deeply appreciate Pooh's extreme sense of brevity, though it likely might leave One feeling cheated for paying full price.

        Within Winnie the Pooh are Two battling natures: That of the Disney giant, and that of Pooh creator A.A. Milne. Milne's 100 Acre Woods was filled with self-serving characters and rampant botched exchanges of information, whereas Disney's contributions have always been the moral at the end, and a general feeling of canned goodwill. They're both here, and to the studio's credit, the heart of Milne's writings is definitely evident in the movie, especially in the dialogue. That being said, the mouse house can't help but lay it on a bit think from time to time, as in the case of the seemingly endless barrage of soul-crushingly cutesy songs performed by Zooey Deschanel laced through out the film. To be fair, it only feels like over-reaching because it doesn't need it. Winnie the Pooh is charming and winsome without having to beat you over the head with it, a light, breezy, and nostalgic afternoon at the flicks. Given the runtime, the parameters of the movie, and the abundance of loud (albeit possibly cute) small children you might have to contend with, I can't really recommend paying for it in theaters, but I'm sure it would make for a modest, warm, and wonderful hand-drawn animation addition to anyone's Netflix cue.

Grade (Seen for free, or on Netflix): B+
Grade (After coughing up $10+): C-

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