Oh, bother. Pooh is out of hunny.
A sensible bear takes care of his tummy by never forgetting to fill it, so Pooh’s growly stomach leads him outside to look for more of the sticky sweet stuff. While searching, he discovers that Eeyore is even gloomier than usual, were that actually possible, because the donkey’s lost his tail. Soon the whole gang—nervous-but-persevering Piglet, fussy Rabbit, long-winded Owl, bouncy Tigger, nurturing Kanga and playful Roo—come to the rescue. Christopher Robin even proposes a contest to find the best new tail for Eeyore, the prize being a tempting-to-Pooh pot of … hunny.
Later, Owl, who is not so humbly writing his memoirs, misreads a note from Christopher Robin, mistaking the words “back soon” for “Backson.” A Backson, the feathery know-it-all says, is a fearsome and brutal beast that’s obviously captured their human friend. Panic erupts because of the imagined disaster, and it’s up to the Hundred Acre Wood community to rescue the boy—and one another as “danger” approaches.
Based on three stories found in A.A. Milne’s books Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, this latest Winnie the Pooh film doesn’t diverge from the classic storytelling style that generations have come to expect from the silly old bear and his friends.
As with most if not all Pooh cartoons, this plot is snugly centered on friendship, and the animals rally around one another in times of need. Pooh, for example, ignores his grouchy tummy and goes all out in helping Eeyore, choosing his friend’s wellbeing over his own. Later, Pooh forgoes hunny again in order to help Christopher Robin, reminding himself that friends are more important than food. Timid Piglet braves a solo trip through dark and scary woods to help his friends who have fallen into a Backson pit dug to catch the monster. The valiant gang sings of staring down even death in order to save Christopher Robin, even though they’re every bit as frightened as any stuffed-bear-adoring 5-year-old would be in the very same situation.
A subtle lesson in the right kind of tolerance threads through the story as animals frustrate one another and then forgive and forget. Exemplifying this theme is a song Zooey Deschanel sings: “You test my nerves, it makes me stronger/So can you bother me a little bit longer?”
As a reviewer who sees G-rated movies that do feature inappropriate sexual content, it delights me to report that Winnie the Pooh has none.
All “violence” is quite gentle and would trouble only the most sensitive of children. But it wouldn’t be a Winnie the Pooh story without Tigger bouncing, pouncing and knocking everyone over. Chaos usually follows him. Piglet gets stuck inside a beehive that Pooh proceeds to whack with a stick. Swarms of bees chase various characters. Eeyore is struck by lightning and hit several times by items friends have offered as new tails (a yo-yo, for example). Someone is accidentally launched from a clothesline. Owl is knocked out by a falling hunny pot. Tigger inadvertently smashes Rabbit into a wall by quickly opening a window.
In the group’s imagination, the Backson behaves as a brute beast. While trapped in a pit they’ve all fallen into, Eeyore says, “We’re all going to die.” Owl chirpily replies, “Cheer up! We won’t perish for days.”
The sharpest dialogue gets is Rabbit saying, disgustedly, “Oh for crying out loud” and “My gracious.” At the end of the credits, the Backson (who knew it really existed?) blurts out a “gosh.”
None. Unless one counts huge pools of hunny and the hypnotic effect they have on Pooh.
Rabbit’s temper is perhaps a hair sharper than it’s been in previous installments. His frustration with the small-brained bear is most obvious when he hits him over the head. In a subtle attempt to cover an embarrassing oversight, Owl fibs to Eeyore, telling him he’d been holding the donkey’s tail for safekeeping. And when faced with the fact that he’d unintentionally misled everyone with the Backson story, Owl sheepishly flies away when they’re angry with him. Ever enthusiastic, Tigger tears up someone’s garden (likely Rabbit’s).
Note that since it pains me so to think of complaining about Tigger tearing up Rabbit’s garden in the same review category I used earlier this year to write, “E.B. sports the unique ‘talent’ of being able to defecate jellybeans” (in Hop), I will hasten to add this: Each and every one of these stuffed animals’ negatives can be easily and effectively used by parents to illustrate to their kids why making the right choice, why keeping your temper, why respecting others’ things is so important.
It’s a cynical world. And that makes it all the more important for us to appreciate joyful, uncomplicated, buoyant characters who take care of one another. In fact, as I type, the small Tigger ornament that’s traveled with me through life-change to life-change for the past 10 years hangs from my computer screen, reminding me to “bounce,” even when things get tough.
Of course, I’m not the only one who loves the gentle wit and wisdom of Milne’s treasured characters. Pooh and his community of simple but earnest neighbors have a worldwide following in part because they’re deliciously guileless. The late and legendary Disney animator Ollie Johnston illustrated this thought well in a clip found on the movie’s official website: “There’s certainly an honesty and an innocence to these Pooh characters. They aren’t putting anything over on anybody. They don’t try to put anything over on each other. They’re very honest with each other, and I think they believe in each other and care for each other. And I think that the kids can get a wonderful lesson from that, and so can grown-ups.”
Disney songwriter Richard M. Sherman adds, later in the clip, “Pooh is the essence of childhood adventure, childhood imagination, a childhood fantasy. It’s the perfectly safe world. Everybody’s nice. They’re all characters. They’re all peculiar. Rabbit’s very fastidious and fussy. Owl is a windbag and he talks all the time, but they’re all lovable, they’re all wonderful. And Pooh, of course, is a bear of very little brain, but he’s all love. And it’s safety, it’s purity, and it’s something I wish we all had more of in this world.”
Me too. That, and hunny.