July 23 (Bloomberg) -- Winnie the Pooh is out of honey and Eeyore has lost his tail.
Never fear, though. Disney turns the dire situation into an enchanting tale featuring a mysterious monster, a playful score and charming narration by John Cleese.
“Winnie the Pooh” marks the hive-raiding bear’s fifth feature-film appearance and first since 2005’s “Poof Heffalump Movie.” Cleverly directed by Stephen Anderson and Don Hall, it’s a joyous experience that should appeal to children and adults alike.
Several times, the movie literally connects to its roots -- the classic children’s books about Winnie and his animal friends written by A.A. Milne in the 1920s. Pooh uses the letters of the book as a ladder, and he and Eeyore the gloomy donkey stroll on a walkway made of words from the books.
While searching for Eeyore’s tail, Winnie and the other residents of Hundred Acre Wood attempt to trap Backson, an imaginary monster they think has kidnapped Christopher Robin (Jack Boulter). In a sparkling sequence animated through Owl’s chalkboard, the creatures imagine that Backson has the power to stop clocks, put holes in socks and scribble in their books.
Songwriter Robert Lopez, who showed his raunchier side in “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q,” penned all but one of the catchy original tunes with his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez. My favorite was “The Tummy Song,” in which Winnie is accompanied by his growling belly (hummed by Lopez).
Actress/musician Zooey Deschanel sings the uplifting opening and closing songs, “A Very Important Thing to Do” and “So Long,” which she also wrote.
Jim Cummings does double-duty as well, voicing Winnie and the irrepressible Tigger. Though he’s been doing Winnie for decades, Cummings manages to make the character fresh.
Other animal voices include Anderson-Lopez (Kanga), Craig Ferguson (Owl), Bud Luckey (Eeyore), Travis Oates (Piglet), Wyatt Dean Hall (Roo) and Tom Kenny (Rabbit).
“Winnie the Pooh” lasts only 68 minutes, but it packs more punch than a lot of bloated summer movies. And make sure you stick around until the very end. After the credits roll, there’s a witty postscript featuring an unexpected visitor from Hundred Acre Wood.
“Winnie the Pooh,” from Walt Disney Pictures, is playing across the U.S. Rating: ***1/2
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Jacob Henkoff writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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