19 April 2011


What's the measure of a film? In recent years, we've seen Ridley Scott's Robin Hood, Roland Emmerich's 2012 and some arsehole's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen over-run by a vast margin, and given how bored I was by each of them, it would be difficult to say that I felt I got my money's worth from those lengthy films. So it's baffling to see the negative reviews of Winnie the Pooh, which runs to 54 minutes long.

Not that the short length of the main feature is the only criticism that certain grumpy bastards are levelling at this return to the Hundred Acre Wood, but it's a criticism that is paradoxical. Winnie the Pooh is not hugely story-driven, nor has it ever been. Indeed, the Disney features usually consist of episodes, which in this case include Eeyore losing his tail and Pooh Bear being unable to get some eats no matter what he tries. And it's pretty much a perfectly pitched film.

It's not a film that invites paragraphs upon paragraphs of deep analysis, but the response to the length seems worth mentioning. At 54 minutes, the film doesn't outstay its welcome- brevity is the soul of wit, and I find myself wishing that other kids' films would be as concise. Take Rio- a film I like, but one which has 20 minutes in the middle where an army of capuchin monkeys come and go, seemingly to bulk out the running time to 95 minutes.

Winnie the Pooh isn't filling a 90 minute quota which, if we're honest, people use less as a barometer of a satisfying length for family films and more as the optimum amount of time to distract their kids. Perhaps it explains Disney's lack of marketing for what's easily going to be the most satisfying film they release this year. There's no false economy in a programme that lasts 73 minutes overall, and it's a weird attitude to have. And even if your tastes are more grown up, this film's certainly more worthy of your money than Your Highness (102 minutes) or Red Riding Hood (100 minutes).

As to the film itself, it's beautifully rendered in the storybook fashion of the older Disney animations, and it either brings back or emulates all of the original vocal performances. In a weird way then, it compares to Scream 4, seeing as how it updates what we know rather than rebooting. Imagine a reboot that was a live action and CG-hybrid, in the vein of that bloody Smurfs movie that's coming out. Wisely, Disney opted for the nostalgic route, with a film that took me back to my childhood like no other in recent memory.

The characters are there as you know and love them. The gloomy and depressed Eeyore comes to the fore on account of his missing tail and Pooh roams from house to house, bugging his friends for honey so he can get a fix and at various points demonstrating his serious addiction issues. Jings, this is sounding like a Mike Leigh film- told you it doesn't invite deep analysis. It's just lovely, really. Older critics have taken issue with the usual divergence from the source material, but personally, I grew up with the cartoons, not the book.

There's no condescending to the material on my part here- Winnie the Pooh is an outright good film. I can't hope to sway more mature audiences to buy tickets if they don't have kids or young relatives, but hell, it looks good and it's the only film in a long time to put a big smile on my face from start to finish. It's good humoured, it's not ticking the same old boxes as every other CG-animation out there, and it's a real nostalgic treat.

Winnie the Pooh is now playing in cinemas nationwide.

Just as Jake and the Neverland Pirates and The Ballad of Nessie bulk out the programme, my brief reviews will bulk out this short review. The Ballad of Nessie, centring around the Loch Ness Monster after she's turfed out of her original home by developers and featuring the vocals of Billy Connolly, is a perfect appetiser for the main attraction.

Poetic and lovely stuff, which, by contrast, Jake and the Neverland Pirates really isn't. Apparently a teaser for a Disney Channel show based around Disney's rendition of Peter Pan, it sells a show that's gonna be unimaginative and just generally cheesy. A damning indictment for an animation aimed at 4 year olds? Yes, because it was followed by TWO perfectly enjoyable animations aimed at 4 year olds...

If you've seen Winnie the Pooh, why not share your comments below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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