Photo: Antidote To War: Frolic with Disney characters in Piglet''s Big Movie.
Disney''s timing in releasing Piglet''s Big Movie last Friday could not have been more serendipitous had it been National Hug a Pig for Peace Week. At the end of what will surely go down as one of the most disheartening weeks in American history, and as a dark and matted blanket of existential anomie appears to have settled over the world for the duration, A.A. Milne''s Piglet, loyal pal to Pooh, finally premiered in his own movie.
Lo and behold, it''s a porker, uh, corker of a family film, exactly the sort of blissful, cute, altogether sweet meditation on friendship and Being a Good Person that the world could use right now. It''s only the second feature-length Milne adaptation to date (the first was 2000''s The Tigger Movie) although the original 1966 TV special, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree and its two follow-ups, 1968''s Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and 1974''s Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too!, continue to be some of Disney''s biggest sellers on DVD and video. There''s always a new fan base right around the crib.
Sterling Holloway, who voiced the original Pooh, died in 1992 and is here replaced by Jim Cummings, who does a fine job of re-creating Holloway''s chunkily nasal tone (to my mind he always sounded as though he''d accidentally inhaled some honey through the wrong orifice). Remarkably, John Fielder-the original Piglet-is still on board, a fact that should comfort adults who grew up with Fielder''s Piglet 30-odd years ago and still keep the character''s anxious squeak close to their hearts.
And that''s the thing about Milne''s stories (and Disney''s animated versions): Most of us were introduced to Pooh, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, and the rest at such an impressionable age that they''ve stayed with us ever since, part and parcel of our interior cultural landscape, as cherished for some as early religious characters, or, more secularly, certainly up there with Adam West and Dick York as you-know-who. Piglet''s Big Movie finds the diminutive hero discouraged when Pooh and the gang fail to include him in their newest scheme to "get some honeys."
Despairing of never being taken seriously due to his small size, he dons his scarf and wanders off into the Hundred Acre Wood, setting in motion not only a search party but also a nostalgic series of reminiscences by his friends, who are aided in their quest by a scrapbook Piglet has left behind which recounts the many adventures he''s shared with the gang.
The songs, always a Disney strong suit, are the sort of perfectly hummable little ditties a Piglet film demands, and Carly Simon''s involvement in them only adds to their strengths. The animation is somewhat flat in the traditional Pooh fashion-Hiyao Miyazaki this isn''t, nor should it be-but the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts (a Winnie the Pooh lesson if ever there was one), that (for adults) works to recall a simpler, safer time. Very young kids won''t care about who does what voice, nor how two-dimensional the backgrounds are-they''ll simply groove on Piglet''s cheeky charm and Carly''s catchy songs. This is as it should be. Piglet, your time has arrived. Soothe us.
Piglet''s Big Movie [4 STARS]
Directed by Francis Glebas
Voices by John Fiedler, Jim Cummings, Ken Sansom, Nikita Hopkins, Tom Wheatley, Kath Soucie
Rated G, 75 min.