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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Winnie the Pooh (review)

Oh, Bother

Oh, it’s more of the same old crap we’re feeding our kids these days: Gratuitious destruction of the English language. Partial ursine nudity. Hunny abuse. And new revulsions, too: The glamorization of obesity. The romanticization of overeating. Horrors! How can we expect our children to navigate the treacherous cultural waters we’ve created for them when we do nothing but make the terrors of the world look this alluring and exciting and yellow and, you know, cartoon-adorable?

Won’t someone think of the children?!
This is why we can’t have nice things: Disney movies about rapacious pooh bears who will steep to disgusting lows to get their honey fixes. And the language! “My tummy is feeling a little eleven o’clockish,” says our pooh-tagonist (the voice of Jim Cummings: Gnomeo & Juliet, The Princess and the Frog) in one shocking moment. “Oh, bother,” he exclaims in another. Cover the kiddies’ ears!

Of course, Winnie the Pooh’s world is falling apart. Christopher Robin (the voice of Jack Boulter), the boy-king of Hundred Acre Wood and Pooh’s beloved leader, has been snatched by a fearsome creature known only as the Backson: no one knows what the Backson is, but it surely must be terrifying. Christopher Robin himself IDed the villain in a note he left for Pooh: It looks like it reads that C.R. will be “back soon,” but what do we know? We thought hunny was spelled h-o-n-e-y. And there’s that, too, bothering Pooh: he’s craving his sweet sweet bee juice, and there’s none to be found. Anywhere. His dealer’s skipped town or something, must be.

Wait now: perhaps I’m wrong about the filmmakers here trying to lead children down a sticky path to self-destruction. For there is contained in this otherwise innocuous little movie a jarringly incongruous CGI-animated sequence — like something outta Trainspotting! — in which Pooh, now getting the hunny-withdrawal shakes, experiences what could only be called a sweat-drenched jonesing nightmare about being nearly drowned in oceans of the stuff. I can only imagine that both the content of this narrative diversion as well as how it is presented — so radically different from the hand-drawn animation of the rest of the film, which was inspired by the E.H. Shepard illustrations of the original A.A. Milne books, as the 1977 Disney movie also was — is designed to terrify children, and possibly also to mystify their parents, who might fondly remember that 1977 flick. Which did not feature CGI jonesing hunny-withdrawal nightmares.

This is the sort of stuff that it takes nine credited writers — not counting A.A. Milne himself — to come up with. They must have worn themselves out on developing that bit, because otherwise they certainly could have created some more stuff to stretch the movie out to, you know, feature length. Fortunately, Disney has seen fit to pad out the moviegoing experience, so that irate parents don’t demand to know where the rest of the movie is that they paid ten bucks for plus six for each of the kids once Winnie the Pooh runs out of steam at the 60-minute mark. See, there’s also a strange little short called “The Ballad of Nessie,” about a monster who looks like Pete’s dragon and teaches children that it’s okay to cry — which is it, of course; of course it is — and lives in a strange place called Scotland where the rolling hills aren’t green but are of tartan plaid. The biology of that realm must be extraordinary. Perhaps James Cameron will visit that alien planet in his next movie.

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Winnie the Pooh (2011)
US/Can release: Jul 15 2011
UK/Ire release: Apr 15 2011

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated Oh No! for gratuitous misspelling, ursine nudity, and hunny abuse
MPAA: rated G
BBFC: rated U (contains no material likely to offend or harm)

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine

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