Copyright Disney

I have to preface this review with one thing. I am not the biggest Winnie the Pooh fan. I have enjoyed the movies over the years and Tigger is one of my favourite characters but I’ve not sat and watched a Pooh movie from beginning to end for years. I decided that I would take my son to see it in the middle of the day. It was not a prospect I was particularly looking forward to. But with a running time of 76 minutes I knew the pain wouldn’t last for long. Well, how surprised I was!

We entered the screen to see a Grandmother and her Grand daughter settling down to the trailers and other than that we had pick of the seats. I was hoping the turn out was not a reflection on the movie. Half term for kids doesn’t start in our area until next week so it wasn’t a surprise to see such a quiet cinema.

Not only did we get the feature length movie but we were also treated to other little surprises. A new, fuller length trailer for Cars 2 premiered (that is one film I am looking forward to!). Then, we were treated to a short episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, still to debut here in the UK but an enjoyable feature none the less. It was at this point that I knew this movie was not aimed a me, but at the 4 year old next to me swaying along to the music and getting very excited but the prospect of a new programme to fall in love with. As if that wasn’t enough, Disney then presented a cartoon short. It seems they have taken a leaf out of Pixar’s book as they told the story of Nessie and her search for a place to live. The Ballad of Nessie is a short, nicely animated film. It follows the story of a monster/dragon/myth, Nessie as her small pond she calls home (and shares with a rubber duck MacQuack) is bulldozed to create Scotland’s first Las Vegas style Mini Golf resort. With no home and no chance of winning her fight against Scottish Millionaire McFroogle, she searches for a new home among the tartan hills. The story, written in verse, is engaging for a young audience and uses humour and poignancy in equal measure. Billy Conolly uses his Scottish Brogue to excellent effect as he shares Nessie’s heartbreak and joy. Visually, the film looks fantastic. Using a collage feel, the background doesn’t look authentic but certainly gives the desired effect. The film has a simple storyline and all but works for me until the end. The way in which Nessie finally finds her home and how Loch Lomond is created is a little unrealistic. Yes, I know! We are talking about a green monster and the backgrounds and setting aren’t exactly true to life but it felt like the story team just couldn’t find a way to end Nessie’s woe. Instead, they chose the nearest thing they had in the story sessions and used that instead. The ending, apart from its creation is still well written and adds the classic Disney message into the movie element.   It is a perfect opener to the main feature, Winnie the Pooh.

We all know the Pooh format. It starts of with live action shots of the real Christopher Robin’s bedroom, we are introduced to the narrator, they introduce the characters and away we go. The film begins in the same way with John Cleese given the job of setting the scene. He ably sets an air of anticipation as Winnie the Pooh works out the very important job he has to do. From that moment on, this is a different Winnie the Pooh movie. The story follows the same track: the gang have a problem, the gang have to solve the problem, the gang cause more problems trying to solve the problem, the gang realise there never was a problem because someone got confused and they all end up happily ever after.

The great triumph of this movie is that the characters integrity and authenticity is kept in tact. Owl controls proceedings with his air of authority without really knowing what is going on, Pooh really shows his childlike innocence and Eeyore is as grumpy as ever. One of the failings for me in previous Pooh movies (Piglet’s Big Movie and The Tigger Movie) was the need to include elements of a depressing storyline. In this movie, there are no signs of this at all. The story goes along at a good pace, the film is upbeat and most of all very, very funny. A stand out scene for me comes near the beginning where confusion between the word “issue” and “atchoo” brings hilarious results. And wait for Piglet to mix up the words ”not” and “knot”. This sort of humour, at times almost verges on the ‘Monty Pythonesque’  but is great for both adults and children alike.  Although this is a film squarely aimed at the young, there is more than enough for the adults to laugh along at. Kristen Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez, the team behind the music from Finding Nemo: The Musical, once again team up to create the original songs for the movie. Although charming, they are not all memorable. The song “Everything is Huny” does stand out as particularly catchy and the re-imagining of the Winnie the Pooh main theme by Zoe Deschenel is clever but I won’t be rushing out to pick up the CD.

Visually, it is great to see the animators using the original style of Winnie the Pooh for the movie. There is no doubt this is the influence of Executive Producer John Lasseter who once again proves that everything he touches turns to gold. The film follows Pooh’s typical style throughout except when the movie’s monster is introduced. The scene that follows is very reminiscent of Dumbo’s “Pink Elephants on Parade” and makes a refreshing change to the aesthetics of the rest of the film.

There has always been a unique way in which Pooh movies tell their story. The combination of full screen animation and illustrations in a book form work well. The clever link between the two is evident again but in this version the directors have developed the idea further. At times we see letters from the book fall into the hundred acre wood. On several occasions those letters prove useful in telling the story. For adults, it is fun to read the text on screen and wait for John Cleese to catch up with what we have already read.

Unlikely to any awards but charming and entertaining inone the less, it is wonderful to see Winnie the Pooh hit the big screen again and is certainly going to be a hit with the crowd it is aimed towards. The length is perfect for is age range too. Would it make a nice edition to the Blu-ray collection? Absolutely! Just don’t go expecting to see this Easter’s big blockbuster but do go and see it, you won’t be disappointed.

Copyright Disney