A.A. Milne’s diminutive, big-hearted piggy gets his own feature-length movie adventure — which also features generous supporting roles for those other much-beloved denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood. Consistent in both look and feel to 2001’s “The Tigger Movie” as well as the award-winning “Winnie the Pooh” shorts of the 1960s, this fine new chapter in the long-running franchise should score well with family audiences (opening amid a dearth of such fare) and Milne cultists, with big video sales to follow — which should help to defray some of the costs incurred by Disney during its prolongedlegal battle over “Pooh” rights.
Just as “The Tigger Movie” sent its eponymous protagonist on a search for his long-lost family, so “Piglet’s Big Movie” concerns a similarly neuroses-strewn journey, in which the object lesson is that you’re only as small as you think. Here, the usually buoyant (if vaguely effete) Piglet (voiced by 77-year-old John Fiedler) finds himself feeling down-in-the-dumps, Eeyore-style. He’s hung-up about his miniature stature, believing that if he were just a tiny bit bigger, he could be that much more helpful to his friends and neighbors. With this in mind, Piglet sets off into the woods. Meanwhile, believing Piglet has disappeared, Pooh and company organize a search party, using Piglet’s self-illustrated diary/scrapbook as a guide.
And like one of those old TV-sitcom episodes comprised solely of clips from earlier episodes, the pages of Piglet’s diary trigger a series of flashbacks, through which the Hundred Acre Wood gang comes to realize how heroic Piglet has been and how much they’ve undervalued his friendship.
“Piglet’s Big Movie” skews young, but screenwriter Brian Hohlfeld imbues the animals with the easily recognizable foibles and insecurities that have made Milne’s stories (and the films adapted from them) so endearing through the generations. In their anecdotal way, the “Pooh” stories are surprisingly revealing about the human condition — they’re Freud by way of Aesop — and so “Piglet” tugs at your heartstrings without leaving you feeling manhandled.
Produced by the Disneytoon Studios division largely responsible for the company’s glut of animated direct-to-video sequels, “Piglet’s Big Movie” is simply hand-drawn in an elegantly inelegant way that’s both faithful to the original book illustrations of E.H. Shepard and suggestive of a child’s crudely beautiful grade-school drawings. But for viewers of a certain age, pic’s true highlight will be its original song score, comprising eight folksy rock ballads written and performed by Carly Simon, whose lyrics (particularly in the lovely “Mother’s Intuition”) have an improvisational quality that provides the emotional voice of the movie, saying those deep-felt things the characters (like us) can’t quite articulate.