The Little Guy Gets a Big Movie
I was into a lot of stuff as a kid. I had my He-Man, G.I. Joe, and, of course, Ninja Turtles action figures, but there was always Winnie the Pooh, a comfort zone for when I got bored pitting Donatello against Skeletor. Pooh's been innocent for as far back as I can remember, unaffected by the changing times, remaining as cute and charming as ever. Watching Piglet's Big Movie reminded me of this fact, and I thank Disney Studios for such a welcome reminder.
In recent years, Disney has been guilty of ruining its animated classics by cranking out inferior sequels, but Piglet's Big Movie escapes membership in that category. Instead of being a cheap way of extorting cash from youngsters and their parents, the film is a continuation of Pooh's world of simplicity and warmness, a formula that's made each Pooh cartoon a success during many decades. Like The Tigger Movie from three years back, all Piglet's Big Movie wants to do is entertain, give out a life lesson or two, and just be a nice, fun movie.
Piglet (voice of John Fiedler) has always been the smallest, most overlooked citizen of the Hundred-Acre Wood. When his friends are harvesting honey, Piglet's participation remains underseen by all involved. Tired of feeling so small and unimportant, Piglet decides to run off. This time, though, Pooh (voice of Jim Cummings), Eeyore (voice of Peter Cullen), Rabbit (voice of Ken Sansom), and the rest of the gang notice Piglet's disappearance and set out looking for the little dude. On the way, Pooh and company reminisce about all the things they couldn't have done without Piglet in the past, causing them to realize the value of having a little guy by their side to help out when it's needed.
Piglet's Big Movie finds itself in an unusual position for a Disney animated sequel. It doesn't have to live up to a better movie. All of Pooh's adventures are virtually the same and leave you with that warm, fuzzy feeling when you leave the theatre. So the only responsibility of Piglet's Big Movie is to carry on the spirit of Pooh (as opposed to something like The Little Mermaid II which tried to be a worthy successor to its flawless predecessor). This is a little picture with a big heart, one not concerned with a smarmy sense of humor (a la Shrek) or whiz-bang special effects (a la Treasure Planet). There's not much of a story, just Pooh and friends remembering three adventures they had where Piglet helped make a difference, but as the filmmakers' intentions are to widen Piglet's bearing on the Hundred-Acre wood, that's all they need. The animation? Not anything to write home about, but it's nicely-done and provides an appealing environment for the characters.
You can't blame Piglet's Big Movie for being overly familiar, because what changes would work in the Pooh formula? This is why Pooh still gets himself stuck in honey pots, Eeyore passes on his Prozac prescription, and Tigger bounces around the place -- and yet the same ol' same ol' is as good as ever. But it's Piglet's turn to be in the spotlight this time. Nevertheless, focus also remains on the other characters, and Piglet becomes a part of the more grand story at hand.
Piglet's Big Movie is, in concept and presentation, about giving the little guy a chance. The beloved character of Piglet has been voiced by John Fiedler (from the original 12 Angry Men) from the very beginning. His work is as charming as ever, as are the other actors who contribute their voices to the familiar cast of characters. Even the songs from Carly Simon (who looks the best she has in years, performing as the final credits role) are cute, fun, and will have the little ones singing in the car on the way home.
While its length and its hero may be small, Piglet's Big Movie contains enough warmth and goodness to fit in easily as a wonderful chapter in a continuing story for years to come. I, for one, hope it never ends.
MY RATING: *** (out of ****)
(Review also posted at www.ajhakari.com.)
Released by Buena Vista Pictures and rated "G."