Winnie the Pooh fairs to charm

Reviewer’s rating ★★

The latest hand-drawn feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios returns a beloved, long-absent character to theaters. Winnie the Pooh, that soft-spoken bear of little brain, stars as the title character among the Hundred Acre Wood-dwelling creatures in the new Winnie The Pooh movie.

Pooh is surrounded by an ensemble of stuffed-animal friends, including a frenzied tiger named Tigger; Owl, a not-so-wise bird whose inflated opinion of himself is much larger than his intelligence; and Eeyore, a perpetually downbeat donkey.

Based upon A.A. Milne’s classic children’s stories, Winnie The Pooh follows the Pooh featurettes released decades ago, beginning with 1966’s Winnie The Pooh And The Honey Tree and continuing with 1968’s Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and 1974’s Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. Disney re-released the short films as a feature-length package in 1977.

Christopher Robin, the boy who owns the stuffed animals that rise to animated life in the Hundred Acre Wood, is a minor player in these new adventures of Pooh and his pals. The film offers two storylines, one about the search for poor Eeyore’s lost tail, another about the animals’ elaborate plan to save the supposedly kidnapped Christopher Robin.

All the while, Pooh is desperately hungry for honey. His quest for the golden treat leaves him continuously honeyless. Eeyore endures similar frustration.

Not even a contest among the animals to find a replacement tail for the donkey can produce a satisfactory appendage.

A musical, Winnie The Pooh’s forgettable songs go in one ear and out the other. Pooh’s honey obsession gets a Busby Berkeley-style movie musical treatment during a fantasy sequence in which he swims in a sea of honey. Like much of the film, it’s a big, loud and busy sequence that, no matter how big, loud and busy it is, fails to entertain.

The film’s almost universally dimwitted characters need charm lessons. That isn’t so much the fault of the voice actors - Jim Cummings does an acceptable job of re-creating the Pooh voice originally spoken by the unique Sterling Holloway - as a consequence of a weak storyline and often witless lines.

Much of Winnie The Pooh is so infantile that it’s likely to lose the interest of children and parents alike.

Occasionally, some clever lines emerge, as when Owl announces, “I have completed my autobiographical thesis!” “Was it painful?” Pooh responds. Yet somehow the fruitless endeavors the animals engage in throughout of the film evolve into a sweet ending.