Off the Shelf…’Winnie the Pooh’

If there’s one Disney staple that I am the most ignorant of it is Winnie the Pooh. Not that the world is hard to comprehend or that I’m oblivious of the characters but I’ve just not had much time with everyone’s favorite rumbly tumbly bear and his endless quest for honey. Not like it takes a lot to become familiar with the inhabitants of A. A. Milne‘s stories, I’ve just never been drawn to those characters. That said, after seeing this newest (and infinitely pleasing) story about Pooh and his friends I don’t mind telling you I am growing quite fond of them all.

What really sets this feature apart is its endless simplicity and beyond that the timeless nature of the story and characters. There’s no divergence from these time honored characters and thankfully no attempts to modernize them or insert cultural references either. It’s just Christopher Robin and his same imaginary friends (Pooh, Rabbit, Tigger and company) that have been around for almost 100 years. But beyond that they each exhibit unique personals, undeniable likability that make the humor and heart feel genuine and just a joy to behold.

While this is a new feature (released in July this year) it is drawn in the original style of animation (proportions, textures and all) which help give this a timeless feel. Beyond that, it might be hard to believe that something drawn in 2D can look and feel so vibrant and almost three dimensional but it does. Admittedly credit for that most likely goes to the Blu Ray transfer but the colors and characters just sing as Pooh, when he is walking across the pages of the book, almost feels like he’s going to just hop off the screen and walk around your living room.

On that note, what really sets this film apart is the interaction with the narrator (this time John Cleese) and Pooh’s breaking the fourth wall as he jumps and tumbles over the text from his own storybook. Cleese’s exchanges with Pooh (voiced by legendary voice actor Jim Cummings) add a level of depth and keep the story and dialog from being one dimensional. For such a simple movie there’s an almost Pixar level of substance and weight. Not saying the quest to fine Eeyore a new tail compares with The Incredibles saving a metropolitan city but you won’t pass the cute journey off as infantile.

If Winnie the Pooh wasn’t already full of surprises and cuteness, add to that an equally adorable score and soundtrack to fully round out this breezy little film. Hans Zimmer protege Henry Jackman (who did a bang up job recently with X-Men: First Class) and Zooey Deschanel (singing this feature’s cute songs) inject the film with even more warmth than you’d expect in a kids movie. I’m not usually a fan of musicals and even though Winnie the Pooh doesn’t feature Disney’s typical Broadway-centric numbers there are plenty of tunes every couple of minutes or so. Not toe tapping but appropriately tailored to the story and none more enjoyable and fitting that the final So Long. Yeah I quickly purchased that song after the credits rolled.

Probably the reason I never wanted to explore the wonderful world of the Hundred Acre Wood is because, like I mentioned above, it just didn’t seem very deep or interesting. But this goes to show that something doesn’t have to be complicated to be enjoyable and it’s the simple things in life you treasure. Still having thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of the 63 minutes (well 53 plus the adorable 10 minute end credits) of this enjoyable family film I can see this quickly and easily becoming a Disney classic and would recommend it to anyone.

G-S-T RULING:

In the closing bits of my Real Steel review I said that it was my favorite family movie of 2011. But having quickly reevaluated my opinion after seeing Winnie the Pooh I believe that film now has a contender for best family feature and it’s in the form of one cuddly honey hungry imaginary bear. Who’d have thunk it right? But kids and adults will most certainly enjoy themselves as did I. I don’t usually say “I really want to watch this again right away” after seeing a film but this time it really is the case.