‘Winnie The Pooh’ is a masterpiece (IANS Movie Review)

August 13th, 2011 - 5:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Film: “Winnie The Pooh”; Voiceovers: John Cleese, Jim Cummings, Bud Luckey, Craig Ferguson, Jack Houlter; Directors: Stephen J. Anderson, Don Hall; Rating: ****1/2

Today there’s no limit to what a filmmaker can do with animation. The limit is set by his or her imagination. To understand how, watch “Winnie The Pooh”, a film that has the look of a Disney movie from 30 years back, but feels fresh and magical — just like the original books by A.A. Milne have been to millions.

In Ashdown Forest lives a group of animals and a boy who are best of friends. After the perennially gloomy donkey Eeyore loses his tail, his friends try to find it. But Pooh the bear, driven by hunger, simply can’t get hunny (honey) out of his mind.

The “Winnie The Pooh” series of books, with its warm, simple stories of friendship and fun, has captivated the imagination of millions of kids for over eight decades now. There have been films and animated series on the same, the most famous being the 1977 film.

If you know Hollywood executives with no sense of cinema, you’d know that they would have wanted to alter this classic and bring out a ‘new’, ‘modern’ film.

Thankfully, they have resisted this temptation and the film instead focuses on the essence of “Winnie The Pooh” which for kids represents the innocence of friendship and for adults the magnificent Shangri-la full of wondrous nature and animals and imagination that their childhood had been.

In the process, Disney has managed to make a truly universal film that babies barely a few days old, oldies on their death bed and everyone in between can enjoy.

Not many films, after Charlie Chaplin’s masterpieces, can claim the same credit. Yet, behind this simple, funny tale are some invaluable lessons that as adults we tend to forget - of love, of friendship, sacrifice and the love of nature.

A daft owl pretending to be smart and who’s always writing his biography, a perennially depressed donkey, a resourceful piglet, a bouncy tiger, a red balloon with his own moods… where else will you find such an ensemble of quirky characters that charm with their simplicity.

What will however inspire and amuse adults quite a bit is its intelligent and quirky writing. The potential of the English language to tie itself into knots and tickle the funny bone has been squeezed to the hilt. Particularly delightful is a pun with the word ‘not’ which leads to a hilarious misunderstood communication between the characters.

This is how films once used to be - simple, innocent, intelligent and eternal in their reach.

Advancement in animation technology has actually sent animation cinema to the gallows. Out comes “Winnie The Pooh” to remind us of what is most crucial in a film — its heart. And that the best special effect in any film is not what you see on screen but what you induce in the mind of the viewer.

If a filmmaker is ever in doubt of what cinema should be, he or she merely needs to replay this film.

For everyone else, you can play it when you’re happy, you can play it when you’re sad. And you ought to especially play it when the rush of modern life makes you a tad too mad. A.A. Milne and Walt Disney would have loved this.

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