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'Winnie the Pooh' true to whimsical nature

“Winnie the Pooh” 4/5 Pitchforks Rated: G Opened July 15 Staring: Jim Cummings

Countless children are reaching that age where they’re old enough to go to their local Cineplex and have a significant movie-going experience. Unfortunately, many kids growing up in our contemporary society will have to settle for “Mr. Popper’s Penguins” and “Zookeeper” as a first outing to the movie theater.

Remember in the era prior to home video when Disney would re-release one of their various classics into theaters, allowing every generation a chance to experience a great children’s film on the big screen? In an age dominated by DVD and Blu-Ray, it seems like the only way one of Disney’s classics can get  re-released into theaters is if it’s in 3D.

Disney’s “Winnie the Pooh” is not a re-release of the 1977 classic “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” However, it is true to the innocently whimsical nature of that wonderful film.

In a summer of humorless slapstick comedies and empty blockbusters like “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” “Winnie the Pooh” will act as an enriching movie for young ones and a charming nostalgic trip for their parents.

The film doesn’t quite reach the heights of “The Princess and the Frog” and “Tangled,” both of which should have been perceived as stiff competition to beat out the Pixar victors for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

The simply titled “Winnie the Pooh” is more in the vein of “The Rescuers Down Under,” which got somewhat lost in the 90s Disney renaissance that included “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast.” Regardless, “Winnie the Pooh” still succeeds as a light and beyond charming effort from Disney that puts “The Tigger Movie” and “Pooh’s Heffalump Movie” to shame.

Not much has changed in the Hundred Acre Wood since “Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.” The gloomy Eeyore’s tail is missing again, Piglet is still a very small animal, every character is aware that they’re characters in a picture book, and Pooh is on an infinite quest to fill his tummy with honey.

I should also mention that Christopher Robin hasn’t aged a day, unlike Andy from the “Toy Story” films.

The film follows Pooh and his friends over the course of one day as they engage in several misadventures.

What I admired about “Winnie the Pooh” was the film’s resistance to contemporize the setting and characters. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall could have packed the film with irrelevant pop culture gags and had Tigger bust out an old school gangsta rap to appeal to the lowest common denominator, but everything in the world of Pooh is as it should be, from the uncomplicated story to the delightful hand-drawn animation.

It’s also nice to see that the film has no villains, other than the dreaded Backsoon, who is really just a fragment of the character’s imagination. It’s kind of in the tradition of a Hayao Miyazaki film like “My Neighbor Totoro” and “Kiki’s Delivery Service.”

If “Winnie the Pooh” has one shortcoming it’s that the film is too short. The running time is merely 69 minutes, which includes a short film and ending credits. This makes the film Disney’s shortest theatrical release, other than maybe “Dumbo.”

The film might have benefited from an additional fifteen minutes towards the end when matters are resolved rather quickly. But maybe somewhere down the line we’ll get “Winnie the Pooh: The Extended Cut!”

“Winnie the Pooh” might not break new grounds for animation, but the film is funny for what it is. It features some strong voice-over work and several fun little songs from Henry Jackson.

Essentially it’s everything that one could hope for from a modern “Pooh” movie. You’d have to be the most cynical person on earth to walk away from the film without a good feeling.

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