Sunday, January 1, 2012

Just Another Review of Winnie the Pooh

(Part of this review was posted as a comment in Bill's Movie Emporium, which you can visit if you click the link to the right)
Deep in the hundred acre woods, where Christopher Robin played/ We find the enchanted neighborhood of Christopher's childhood days. 
I don't remember watching Winnie the Pooh as a child, but I know I did-- on one of the many incarnations of the Disney television show, if nothing else.  My real introduction to the shorts came when my son was a toddler, and I was desperate for anything to make him not force me to read The Cat and the Hat again and again.  Wow, was I charmed.  The original three shorts were masterpieces.  The quiet gluttony of Pooh, the anxieties of Piglet,  the depressive Eeyore, the controlling Rabbit, and the supposedly wise Owl--  how wonderful they all were.  And the songs were both catchy and clever.  Later, Tigger was added in as the rambunctious sufferer of ADHD.  Part of what I loved about the films is that they kept all the charm and winking of the original books, added another layer with fourth wall references as well as some Disney magic.  The three original shorts didn't work as well thrown together to make  a "feature film" out of it in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.  And the fourth short, Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore lost some of the magic.  Nevertheless, the original shorts are among my favorite films of all time, individually.
There had been attempts made to bring Winnie the Pooh back to the screen.  A Disney television show was created, which was dull and simply moralistic.  From that show a couple films were released in the theatres, my favorite of which was The Tigger Movie, but all of them lacked the charm of the original, and especially the quality of the animation.
This last year, Disney tried again.  This time, they purposefully tried to re-create the magic of the first three shorts I loved so well.  The animation was very much the style of the originals, and the writers worked hard to re-establish what made the original shorts great.  They took the basic plot from an original story by A.A. Milne, they added a generous helping of sly humor, and the kept the characters to the simple stereotypes they were.  And for the most part it worked.
A mild controversy occurred about the film because of its run time.  It is only a few minutes over an hour. Even with the cute Toy Story short with it, it was a very short film.  Some said that the film wasn't long enough to pay full ticket price for.  I could understand what they meant, but in principle I agreed with my friend Bill, who said that what matters isn't length but quality.
I think if I had seen WtP in the theatres I would have been disappointed.  It isn’t that I didn’t enjoy my time with WtP, but that as much as it strove for the quality of the earlier shorts, it didn’t quite make it. For one, the songs were of lesser quality (of course, they had to be, because the Sherman Bros. weren’t writing them). But, in fact, the film was TOO long. They took a Pooh story that would have normally been told in 20-30 minutes and stretched it out to twice the time. It had all the charms of the earlier shorts, but not more than them, but added twice the time. I enjoyed the film, but I think it could have been trimmed more– if nothing else, the songs could have been shorter.
Oh well, at least we’ve got the real Pooh back again, complete with the charm, the breaking of the fourth wall, and the sly humor. How wonderful.  Thank you, Disney.  I can't wait to watch the next one. 3.5/5

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