Winnie the Pooh conjures up the image of a rotund teddy bear dispensing childish (I mean that in the best way possible) wisdom with his belly rumbling with a perpetual hunger for honey… I mean, hunny. The character and the stories set in Hundred Acre Wood were created by AA Milne in the 1920s, but it got global fame only after Disney turned into a franchise about four decades later.
The franchise is getting its first live-action film in a couple of days. Titled Christopher Robin, the film is about the little boy who may or may not have imagined Pooh Bear, Piglet, Tigger and others. The ‘boy’ has grown into Ewan McGregor and I am sure the movie would delight me or anybody else who grew up on a steady diet of those stories. And nothing related to the Pooh Bear can be bad, period. I was ambivalent while watching the film’s trailer, but became interested as soon as Pooh appeared.
But before Christopher Robin, let us have a look at the 2011 animated film released by Disney in theatres to compete with – I kid you not – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, the final Harry Potter film. Winnie the Pooh would have been fine as a home video release, since that is how these stories must be enjoyed. They are small-scale stories, have a quiet setting and they move with a relaxed pace.
In the film, the narrator wakes Pooh up. The Pooh Bear is hungry and finds out that all his ‘hunny pots’ are empty. As he goes outside to search for some honey, he finds out that Eeyore, the gloomy donkey has lost his tail. Now, these animal characters are supposed to be stuffed toys, so the problem of losing a tail could be solved by sewing a new one. But there has to be a tail or something resembling a tail. All the other characters – Piglet, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, and Roo and Christopher Robin – join them.
Christopher Robin decides to hold a contest to see who can find a proper replacement and win a pot of honey as the prize. Pooh is interested but fails to win the contest. In fact, poor Eeyore is left tail-less as the next morning dawns. Pooh, still hungry, finds a note pinned to Christopher Robin’s wall that says, “Gon Out Bizy Back Soon”. Since Pooh is not exactly erudite (“My spelling is wobbly. It’s good spelling but it wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places,” he once ruminated), he takes Owl’s help. Owl misreads Back Soon as Backson, a monster who has kidnapped Christopher. Rest of the film involves the group trying to save their human friend and setting traps for the wicked Backson. They also continue their efforts to find a tail for Eeyore, and whilst Pooh is interested in helping Eeyore, he would also love a pot of honey.
The story is uncomplicated, charming and sweet. The plot can be summed up like this: “Eeyore lost a tail, and the Hundred Acre Inhabitants help him find a new one. Oh, and Pooh is hungry”. Like other works in the franchise, it gives all the right lessons to the young ones about friendship, sacrifice (of hunny, silly) and love (Milne named a character after his own son, after all). The humour is geared towards kids, but people of every age will enjoy this film. There are some uproarious moments as well, but take it from me, throughout the film, you will grin like an idiot. I know I did.
In this day and age, when 3D animation, special effects and action are the norm, Winnie the Pooh harkens back to a simpler, more innocent time of the hand-drawn 2D animation. The environs and characters have a drawing-like feel to them. The characters really do look like they have come right out of a particularly pretty illustration in the book. Jim Cummings, the old-timer, returns to voice Pooh. John Cleese’s narration (he is a damn good storyteller) makes everything even better. Regardless of whether you have read Winnie-the-Pooh (Disney sadly killed the hyphens) books or seen cartoons and movies, you will like this film. Indeed, only a particularly cold individual would find anything wrong with Winnie the Pooh. That Silly Old Bear.