I won’t say that Winnie the Pooh is the best movie of the year so far, but it is the first non-documentary I have left without being conscious of some vestige of disappointment. Super 8? A charming beginning but the last act goes over the top. Transformers? Stunning special effects but too loud and too long. Source Code? Trippy fun, but falls apart upon reflection before you reach the car. Tree of Life? Well Malick is either your cup of tea or he isn’t.
There is a difference, I suppose, between feeling genuine delight at a film and simply being grateful the makers didn’t mess it up. Here’s what they didn’t do: 1) They didn’t ratchet up the pace to make it zany, or zippy, frenetic, or fun; 2) They didn’t PGify it with fart jokes, inside reference/allusions, or adult double-entendres; 3) They didn’t make Piglet, or Owl, or Roo a snappy sidekick after the fashion of Aladdin/Lion King/Mulan/Shrek (Dreamworks, yes, I know); and 4) They didn’t do a revisionist, PC overhaul on Pooh’s character and use it to speak of the evils of childhood obesity created by an all-honey diet. In short, they let it be. That may mean less fun (there’s that word again), it certainly means less flash, but it paradoxically means more pleasure too. For in an era of instant gratification, sustained, simple pleasures can run deep, touching on something that is soothing, tapping into that part of our inner child and imagination that wants to be nurtured as much, if not more, as it wants to be entertained.
Winnie the Pooh is a throwback, to be sure, but throwbacks are in vogue these days, and Pooh is so un-selfconsciously unhip that he is hip. Pooh is, let us admit, a little slow. (“I am a bear of very small brain…”) He has a good heart, however, and in this day and culture any franchise that is telling kids that being loving is more important than being stylish is okay in my book.
Go. And stay for the credits. All the familiar members of the Pooh franchise are there…plus one surprisingly endearing newcomer to the 100 Year Forest family.