Film Reviews: Wednesday, March 20, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
The Feh of Piglet

Winnie-the-Pooh and friends continue to be ill-served by their movies.

By KRISTIAN LIN

Calvin and Hobbes have been silent since Bill Watterson admitted his creativity had run dry, and Charles M. Schulz’s heirs haven’t tried to give the Peanuts characters new stories. There’s something to be said for maintaining the integrity of successful cartoon characters. Watterson and Schulz both owed a considerable debt to A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories. It’s too bad that the lovable bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood have fallen into the hands of filmmakers who don’t seem to know how to handle them, as proved by two recent feature films. The Tigger Movie (2000) tried to create an entirely original story for Pooh’s most irrepressible friend, and the result was fairly disastrous. The latest installment, Piglet’s Big Movie, sticks closer to Milne’s plots, and the levelheaded, self-aware Piglet is a much better subject for a feature film than Tigger is. That doesn’t translate to a better movie, however.

The film begins with Piglet suddenly disappearing. (I like the fact that his disappearance and his subsequent reappearance are never fully explained. This is the one bit of the film that feels authentically Milne-like.) As Pooh organizes Tigger, Rabbit, and Eeyore to search for him, they all remember a story involving Piglet, which we see in flashback. The stories are based on Milne’s short fiction, though they’re all revised somewhat. His friends’ memories cause them to realize how much the little pig has achieved.

The first of this movie’s problems is that it suffers in comparison to George Miller’s Babe, which told a rather similar story eight years ago. The filmmakers at least realize that snappy dialogue and wisecracking would be out of place in Pooh’s universe, but they try to make Milne’s quiet, serene stories too much like Disney’s more adventurous animated movies. Not that you’d confuse either of the Pooh movies with Treasure Planet or Lilo & Stitch, but there’s too much emphasis on events and not enough on what Pooh and Piglet learn. The bear and the pig are overwhelmed by Tigger, Rabbit, and Eeyore. That’s bad, because these supporting characters are too one-note to carry a film. (Eeyore was a sorely needed source of comic relief in The Tigger Movie; he’s a dim presence here.)

Whereas The Tigger Movie featured songs by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman (Mary Poppins), Piglet’s Big Movie enlists Carly Simon to provide the music. It doesn’t help; the songs here are weak, and Simon’s best work springs from her own experiences, not from describing what others are feeling. Even her personal appearance over the end credits can’t inject this movie with anything.

In the end, film adaptations like these are the best argument for kids going out to read about Pooh for themselves. We should all turn to the current Pooh filmmakers and say, “That’ll do, Piglet.”


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