[Screen It]

(2003) (voices of John Fiedler and Jim Cummings) (G)

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Children's Animated: Winnie the Pooh and his friends set out to find their missing small friend when they realize just how big he really is their lives.
Winnie the Pooh (voice of JIM CUMMINGS) and his friends Tigger (voice JIM CUMMINGS), Rabbit (voice of KEN SANSOM) and Eeyore (voice of PETER CULLEN) are trying to pull off an elaborate plan to extract honey from a beehive. Their other friend, the diminutive Piglet (voice of JOHN FIEDLER), wants to help, but the others see him as too little for their big task.

Despite him saving the day and helping them succeed, they don't recognize his contributions. Accordingly, he wanders off, wishing they'd need his help someday. They then suddenly realize he's gone and thus set off to find him. To do so, they use his scrapbook of memories as something of a road map that they hope will lead them to him.

Along the way, they remember their various escapades and encounters with the like of Christopher Robin (voice of TOM WHEATLEY), Kanga (voice of KATH SOUCIE) the kangaroo and her little one, Roo (voice of NIKITA HOPKINS), and come to realize that Piglet has been a big part of their lives.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
When it comes to diplomacy and dealing with "warring nations," politicians and diplomats have nothing on parents. After all, the "axis of evil" is child's play - pun fully intended - compared to kids going through the terrible twos. Then there's trying to deal with those who are jealous and/or upset about not receiving or getting to do something that their siblings or friends have.

In a sanity-saving move, resourceful parents device various ways to appease the little ones, including giving each child their own chance to stand in the spotlight while also keeping the others involved so as not to create more anarchy.

In a similar fashion, Disney seems to be doing the same with characters from A.A. Milne's classic "Winnie the Pooh." That's not to say that any of the genial and mostly mild-mannered characters would complain or throw a fit - at least not on camera. Behind it, however, might be another story as they might act like Baby Herman from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"

After all, Tigger got his own movie in 2000. Now it's Piglet's turn in the imaginatively titled "Piglet's Big Movie." Pretty much a carbon copy of Tigger's flick in terms of story and striving to entertain its young audience with a moral, the film scores points simply for doing that in a mostly benign fashion (although there's one troubling point I'll get to in a moment).

That said, and notwithstanding the financial motivation as well as the dearth of such offerings for the little ones on the big screen, I'm not sure if this effort really warranted a theatrical release. The story - Piglet's friends realize how important he is to them while searching for him after overlooking his accomplishments - is about as simplistic as they come. It could also try the patience of adults. We've grown accustomed to at least some of such offerings attempting to entertain us along with the main audience, but very little of that's present here.

As directed by Francis Glebas (making his feature debut), who works from a script by Brian Hohlfeld ("A Very Merry Pooh Year," "He Said, She Said"), the one-note learning lesson is pretty straightforward, with various episodic flashbacks interspersed into the proceedings. They're present to reinforce the lesson and remind the characters - and thus the target audience - of the film's message about not overlooking or taking others for granted.

Oddly enough - considering the genre and target audience - one of those flashback moments involves two of the characters actively not liking some agreeable newcomers to their neighborhood. Worse yet, they then plot to kidnap the kangaroo's child and replace it with Piglet in an effort to make her want to move away. While most of that will go over the little ones' heads - as it's mostly played in a lighthearted fashion - some parents might be a bit disturbed by that particular subject matter, especially considering such real-life incidents.

The rest of the film, however, is rather benign, and in a way, its plot is somewhat akin to "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Various kids might identify with the pint-sized protagonist and his desire to be accepted as one of the guys.

Beyond a few bits of wordplay on the part of Tigger (where the character unknowingly jumbles or make up words and phrases for comic effect), there's not much here for older kids, let alone adults. The animation is on par with the middle-range storybook look found in "The Tigger Movie," while the vocal works of the likes of John Fiedler ("Twelve Angry Men," TV's "The Bob Newhart Show"), Jim Cummings ("The Tigger Movie," "The Lion King"), Peter Cullen ("Gremlins," "The Tigger Movie"), Kath Soucie (the "Rugrats" TV show and movies, "Space Jam"), Nikita Hopkins ("The Tigger Movie," TV's "House of Mouse") and Ken Sansom ("The Tigger Movie," various "Winnie the Pooh" videos) is all fine.

There's not really much else to say about the film since there's really not much to it. Clocking in at a scant 75-some minutes (including credits), the film does feature some new Pooh-related songs by Carly Simon (including a brief live action music video during those closing credits), but none of them are particularly memorable (although their gentle tone blends in perfectly with that of the rest of the offerings).

A passable, effectively diversionary and potentially engaging offering for younger viewers, the film is okay entertainment for its target audience. "Piglet's Big Movie" rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed March 15, 2003 / Posted March 21, 2003

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