Piglet's Big Movie
review by Dan Lybarger, 21 March 2003

There's an innate charm to the residents of A. A. Milne's Hundred Acre Wood that makes even the most uninspired adaptations of his work tolerable. Winnie the Pooh and his cohorts are still cute and loveable, but the movies have a mere fraction of the appeal that runs through Milne's original stories. Piglet's Big Movie, which focuses on Pooh's diminutive porcine pal, even repeats some of Milne's original tales plot point-for-plot point. If only the movie could also emulate the wit and affection in the books. In Milne's hands, the pessimistic donkey Eeyore ("Good morning, if it is a good morning, which I doubt."), the self-important Owl and the maternal Kanga became both endearing and often riotously funny.

The quips and presentation in Piglet's Big Movie thankfully have the warmth but not much of the humor in the books. As a kid, I was drawn to Milne's world not because it was age-appropriate but because it was hilarious. Eeyore's dour outlook and Pooh's spectacular appetite and misjudgments (he knocks at the door of his own house waiting for the owner to answer it) left me in stitches. Seeing the new film is like listening to a teacher reciting Shakespeare's Richard III after you've seen Ian McKellen take on the role. The beauty of the language is there, but the soul and the magic are gone.

Most of Piglet's Big Movie is devoted to a honey heist that goes bad. Pooh, Tigger (both voiced by Jim Cummings), Eeyore (Peter Cullen) and Rabbit (Ken Sansom) reduce Piglet (John Fielder) to a mere observer because he is too small. The fact that Piglet is smarter than the rest of the bunch combined isn't entered into the equation.

When the bees get upset about losing their handiwork to the thieves, the rest of the crew gets separated from Piglet. Fearing the worst, they try to track down their buddy by following clues that he's left in his scrapbook. The document recalls their adventure -- like the quest for the North Pole and the discovery that Kanga and Roo weren't hostile --from Piglet's point of view. Pooh and the rest soon realize that Piglet has played a much more important role in their lives than they imagined.

Milne is thankfully credited for some of the direct copying (the North Pole campaign and some other incidents are from his stories), and the animation -- which Disney outsourced to a Japanese studio -- is far better than the TV episodes. Nonetheless, there is still a sense of indifference that Pooh and his friends simply don't deserve. The message that physical size has nothing to do with an individual's worth is certainly one that children should hear, but it would have seemed less fulsome if the story had been a little more fun.

Carly Simon's tunes aren't vintage offerings, but her enthusiasm for the enterprise is obvious and welcome. She even shows up in person at the end to serenade the audience. If the rest of the film had her devotion, its flaws could easily be overlooked.

After the movie finished, I overheard a mother tell her kids that the movie has been taken from books by a man named A.A. Milne and that Christopher Robin was his little boy. I quickly got the sense that she was shortly going to read the children the stories. Piglet's Big Movie is an agreeable, if fitfully entertaining, introduction to Milne's characters. But it's no substitute for going by the book.

Directed by:
Francis Glebas

Starring:
John Fiedler
Jim Cummings
Ken Sansom
Peter Cullen

Written by:
Brian Hohlfeld

Rated:
G - General Audiences.
All ages admitted.

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