Judge Clark Douglas misses the days of tripping on hallucinatory honey with Pooh Bear.
A Singin', Dancin', Fun-tastic Pooh Classic!
Winnie the Pooh and his companions have served as a reliable source of income for the folks at Walt Disney over the past few decades. As times have changed, so have Pooh's adventures. The days of the classic animated shorts like Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day are long gone, giving way to increasingly hollow variations as time has marched along. One of the more recent additions to the Pooh franchise is the television program My Friends Tigger and Pooh, a CGI-animation show featuring a young girl named Darby solving mysteries with Tigger, Pooh, and a little puppy named Buster. Most of the other recognizable characters are involved, with some notable exceptions like Owl (we wouldn't want to have anyone smarter than a 5th grader involved, would we?) and Gopher (whose unhealthy obsession with not being in A.A. Milne's original books has undoubtedly sent him into therapy). The show is a lightweight slice of edutainment geared at Pre-K kiddies, allowing the viewers to "help" Darby & friends solve the mystery. Such interactive games are mostly set aside in the first feature film based on the show, Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too. One might initially suspect the film to offer the same sort of innocuous fun as the television program. I was personally startled to discover just how incredibly annoying the film is.
Oh, it certainly begins innocently enough. When the film opens, it's another beautiful day in the Hundred Acre Wood. Christopher Robin isn't around much these days, but the ever-resourceful Darby still has loads of free time to spend with all the animals that live in the magical forest. Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Lumpy, and the rest have all decided to have a picnic. It's so much fun! Everybody is getting along smashingly. They all seem particularly pleased with the great lengths Rabbit has taken to ensure that the picnic was a success. In a moment of foolish gratefulness, Darby and the gang decide to appoint Rabbit as Grand Mayor of the 100 Acre Wood.
"What does a mayor do?" Rabbit inquires.
"Well, a mayor is in charge of everything," Darby replies. Oh, bother.
Rabbit's power immediately goes to his head, and he quickly turns the 100 Acre Wood into a a brutal dictatorship. Tigger is only allotted 10 minutes of bouncing time every single day. Pooh is forced to balance his honey consumption with a diet of fruits and vegetables. Everyone must go about their day following a very specific schedule…Rabbit's schedule…and if you don't, well, you're in big trouble. Rabbit adds hundreds of new rules every single day, creating very specific guidelines to ensure that everybody behaves exactly the way he wants them to. Things grow increasingly tense and stressful, and soon Tigger decides to branch off and become mayor of "the other half" of the Hundred Acre Wood. Those who live on Rabbit's side are forced to abide by strict rules while those who live on Tigger's side are given no guidance or structure whatsoever. This leads to all sorts of economic problems (Kanga can't bake cookies, since the butter is on the other side of the Wood) and personal arguments.
Once the film settles into an uncomfortable groove, it just sort of stays there for what feels like forever. What we have is a 22-minute television episode about learning to get along with others stretched out to a full hour. Arguments, whining, complaining, and finger-pointing are used as padding. Look, I've got nothing against the lessons being taught here, but after a certain point Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too starts to feel way to much like a Hundred Acre Wood adaptation of The Bickersons (only without Dom Ameche's exasperated wit). Who knows what kids may think, but I have little doubt that many parents will find the endless parade of G-rated feuding on display here incredibly irritating.
Other problems are basically carried over from the television programs. Now more than ever, these characters feel like mere shadows of their former selves. As time goes by, Tigger and Pooh begin to seem less and less like themselves and more and more like perfectly ordinary children's television characters. The CG animation is very low-budget to say the least, and the film has all the visual splendor of a video game made in 2002. The songs are largely unimaginative, even a quick contribution from the ubiquitous Kenny Loggins. Pacing is severely lacking, as there's far too much time spent on the second act of the film.
The image here is fairly vibrant and colorful, though the solid level of detail only accentuates the weaknesses in the animation. The audio is reasonably well-mixed throughout. Tigger's big solo number does suffer from small levels of distortion in a couple spots. The two primary extras are an interactive game that allows kids to stage their own musical theatre production and a Kenny Loggins music video. You also have a "Sing-Along" viewing option that tosses subtitles on the screen during the musical numbers.
There are endless Pooh products available out there. The character hasn't been around for some 40+ years for nothing. Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too is just about the weakest Pooh-related product I have seen to date, so I heartily recommend picking up just about any Pooh-themed alternative instead.
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