A musical adventure for a bear stuffed with CG puff
This feature film from the My Friends Winnie and Tigger series (in actuality a long-length episode, since 60 minutes doesn't make a feature, no matter what the Epic Movie franchise has shown us) catches the characters at a picnic pulled together by a tyrannical Rabbit, who loves order and rules. The worst thing you can do with someone who loves power is give them more, which is just what the 100 Acre Wood gang does when they thank Rabbit for his efforts by naming him mayor, letting loose a mad bureaucrat whose rules prevent anyone from doing what they enjoy. That rubs Tigger the wrong way, and he leads a revolt that leads Rabbit to split the Wood into two groups with a big white line, a situation that messes up friendships among the crew (and borrows from decades of sitcom plots.).
Only Super Sleuth Darby and her dog Buster are free to roam where they want to, line be damned, so naturally they are stuck in the middle of the conflict, but, they also can provide the inspiration for solving the issue, introducing the series' mystery solving concept (an element largely abandoned here.) Their role for most of the movie instead is to lead the viewer to the various miserable denizens of the 100 Acre, illustrating how bad a despot Rabbit is, frequently in song. Even if they weren't pointing out the malaise overtaking the Wood, those numbers hardly stack up with Disney's usual level of quality, with only "Bouncin'," Tigger's big solo, coming off as a genuine song and dance number (though the opening/closing "One Big Happy Family" is a decent tune as well.) Even the big Kenny Loggins song "Underneath the Same Sky" is weak, with some of the worst lyrics heard in a kid's show.
Considering it's missing the friendship between Christopher Robin and Pooh, and a few characters, including the voice of reason, Owl, and the atmosphere of the animation has been traded for smooth CG, it should be no surprise that it doesn't feel like a Winnie the Pooh cartoon. In fact, if you took Winnie out, it would hardly affect the show at all, rendering it an overall generic bit of kiddie entertainment. The focus is on more exciting characters, and Pooh is now a sidekick in his own universe. That didn't sit well with my 3-year-old, who could barely be bothered to pay attention most of the time, which wasn't the case with the older cartoons. That sense of something special is just not there.
The surprising inclusion of a Dolby Digital 5.1 track doesn't make for an impressive presentation, with the dialogue delivered front and centered, while the music gets a bit of a boost in the sides and rear, where some atmospheric effects also can be heard. It's not a bad track in any way, but it doesn't take advantage of the surround sound either.
There are two alternate ways to view the film, one with automatic activities peppered throughout the movie, and the other has interactive activities, similar to the set-top game, where you select the right choice. The inserts are actually pretty well integrated with the film, but to play them, you still have to sit through the movie (unless you fast-forward.)
For those more musically inclined, you have a sing-along version of the film, with nice, big easy-to-follow subtitles during the songs, or you can watch a music video for Loggins' "Underneath the Same Sky." Things wrap up with a selection of eight promos for Disney products.
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