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'Piglet's Big Movie'

Pooh and Piglet in a low-key, low-budget production

Friday, March 21, 2003

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

"Piglet's Big Movie" is strictly for small fry.

 
 
'Piglet's Big Movie'

RATING: G.

VOICES: John Fiedler, Jim Cummings, Ken Sansom.

DIRECTOR: Francis Glebas.

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Disney has had an impressive run of big-budget animated productions over the past decade or so. "Piglet's Big Movie" is one of the low-budget releases Disney makes every so often to milk more revenue from an established property.

Piglet, of course, is the small porcine pal of Winnie the Pooh, that lovable bear of very little brain who lives in the Hundred Acre Wood with friends Tigger and Rabbit and Owl and Kanga and Roo. The magic of A.A. Milne's original Pooh stories lies in the simplicity and innocence of the characters as they go about their adventures in the timeless tranquility of the Hundred Acre Wood, the landscape of childhood.

The best sequence in the movie captures that aura. Piglet has disappeared, and the other characters have called off their search because of bad weather. As they hole up, they start drawing crayon pictures evoking their feelings about the little guy. Those pictures come to life in a fresh and lively animation style that jolts you awake from the production-line mediocrity of the rest of the movie.

Piglet's plight is that he feels useless after the other characters deem him too small to help out in such adventures as the honey-gathering scheme that opens the movie. He wanders off helping some even smaller creatures get out of trouble. Still, Pooh and the others fret over where he's gone, and look for him with the help of his memory book, containing his own drawings of past adventures. With typical Pooh logic, they figure the memory book knows where Piglet is and will lead them there.

Where it leads, in fact, is to a set of three separate tales, each taken from an original Milne story and each featuring Piglet as the key figure. The other characters realize his importance (as if true friends would care) while we watch the tales in flashback. In other words, Piglet isn't big enough to merit a full screenplay. This is short-attention-span theater.

On the other hand, Disney's original Pooh releases were short films -- 25 minutes each, which is probably just about right. They didn't feel the need to send messages of self-worth. And they didn't have ugly subtexts like Rabbit's prejudice toward Kanga when she first moved into the Wood. Milne's story made it seem more innocent, like a child's wary reaction to something unfamiliar.

Carly Simon's songs for the film seem to understand the difference. The movie itself does not. Bother.

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