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Review: "Winnie the Pooh" Is a Refreshing Change of Pace

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Your favorite bear is back with his old posse--including Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet--in full effect. The film comes out July 15, 2011.

A corpulent, monomaniacal bear of limited intellect has returned to the big screen to save you—if only for a day—from the exhausting bombast, schilling and aggression that dominates what passes for kids' films.

"Winnie the Pooh" finds our eponymous bear and the rest of his crew in the Hundred Acre Wood, on a desperate quest for Eeyore's lost "tael," a search that soon leads them to a hunt for the dreaded "Backson." And of course, amid all the fuss, Winnie, like a heat-seeking missile, never strays from his quest for honey. The story is an amalgam of three of A.A. Milne's "Pooh" stories, "In Which Eeyore Loses a Tail and Pooh Finds One," "In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump," and "In Which Rabbit Has a Busy Day and We Learn What Christopher Robin Does in the Mornings."

John Cleese serves as the narrator, and directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall cleverly incorporate the pages of the book being read into the action--at times characters bump into the words, get pulled along by them, crash through them...  And on at least one occasion, Cleese and Pooh get into an argument. The humor throughout the film is funny enough to appeal to kids and smart enough to entertain their parents, including some great moments of "Who's On First"-style wordplay. And the animation is magnificent, a reminder of just how great hand-drawn cartoons can look.

The songs by Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, and  by Robert Lopez (of "Avenue Q" and "Book of Mormon" fame) and his wife, Kristen, are great, perfectly reflecting the tone of the film, without interfering with the narrative.

The biggest knock against "Winnie the Pooh" is that it's short, very short, coming in at a brisk 68 minutes. But seeing as the film is geared at a younger audience, that quick run-time may be your best friend. The film is preceded by an amusing animated short entitled "The Ballad of Nessie," narrated by Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, that tells an amusing story about how the famed monster fond her way home.

"Winnie the Pooh" may not be loud and frantic enough for older kids, but it's exactly what older fans of the bear are looking for, and its brevity makes it a perfect film for younger kids.

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