Fans of A.A. Milne's fantastically classic children's books know that there's no such thing as a heffalump. When Winnie the Pooh and his best friend Piglet go heffalump hunting in one of the stories, they track the non-existent creature in circles, following their own tracks as their footprints pile on top of one another.
Now we have a new Winnie the Pooh movie in which a real heffalump shows itself. This is akin to making a sequel to "Harvey" in which a big animated rabbit turns up, or a sequel to "Citizen Kane" all about the history of Rosebud.
In the new film, Pooh and friends awaken to the fearsome cry of a heffalump. Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit and Eeyore organize one of their famous "expotitions," to find it. Little Roo wants to join them, but is sent home on account of his tender young age.
But the brash Roo (voiced by Nikita Hopkins) goes out on his own and meets the young heffalump of the title (voiced by Kyle Stanger). Called "Lumpy," the purple, elephant-like creature sports a sweet little British accent and a contagious laugh. He more than justifies his presence.
The colorfully animated movie then cuts back and forth between several story threads as our heroes get separated in the woods. Eeyore, carrying a huge pack of Helpful Things on his back, lags behind, while Pooh and Piglet trail off in the wrong direction. Roo and Lumpy become friends, but can Roo convince the rest of his friends that Lumpy means no harm?
The film manages a few nods to Milne's superb wordplay, as well as a handful of genuine belly laughs. When Rabbit warns Roo that their heffalump hunt will be fraught with danger, Tigger adds that, "You just can't argue with a word like 'fraught.'"
"Pooh's Heffalump Movie" also understands the way that children play, and how a couple of youngsters, without intending any malice, can destroy Rabbit's carefully tended garden.
Events drag only when Carly Simon's warbly songs kick in (Ms. Simon also contributed songs to the previous Pooh feature film, "Piglet's Big Movie"). Even a potentially deadly parable about prejudice comes across with amiable lightness.
Word on the street was that Disney's disappointing "Home on the Range" would be their last full-length, hand-drawn animated film. Thankfully, the gossip was wrong. Running a sprightly 68 minutes, "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" is one of the most delightful, family-friendly animated films in some time.
Run time: 68 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th February 2005
Box Office USA: $18.0M
Distributed by: Buena Vista
Production compaines: Walt Disney Pictures
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Fresh: 68 Rotten: 18
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: Frank Nissen
Starring: Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh / Tigger (voice), John Fiedler as Piglet (voice), Nikita Hopkins as Roo (voice), Kath Soucie as Kanga (voice), Ken Sansom as Rabbit (voice), Peter Cullen as Eeyore (voice), Brenda Blethyn as Mama Heffalump (voice), Kyle Stanger as Lumpy (voice)
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