The bear’s ne­ces­si­ties

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews -

DARKER, MOOD­IER, tor­tured; the new Win­nie the Pooh was never go­ing to make any con­ces­sions to such grown-up things. AA Milne’s bear is sim­ply too soft and round to be edgy. And don’t ex­pect a Venom-style al­ter ego – Dis­ney’s 51st an­i­mated fea­ture stu­diously avoids the at­tributes we’ve come to as­so­ciate with fran­chise re­boots.

Long­time Pooh watch­ers may, nonethe­less, note small changes around Hun­dred Acre Wood – sorry, 100 Aker Wood. Nar­ra­tor John Cleese now squab­bles with the tit­u­lar ur­sine when the peren­ni­ally hun­gry Pooh in­sists on mess­ing up the words on the an­i­mated sto­ry­book page.

There are other new voices too. Tom Kenny, the pipes be­hind SpongeBob SquarePants, does the hon­ours as Rab­bit; Craig Fer­gu­son’s Owl is ap­po­sitely grandil­o­quent; Zooey Deschanel sings the old theme song; Bud Lackey’s Eey­ore is en­dear­ingly Old West even if he can’t quite repli­cate the gloom of Ralph Wright’s orig­i­nal.

The film-mak­ers have done com­mend­able work in in­su­lat­ing their fluffy hero from the mean old mod­ern world. Their Pooh, de­spite his crisp, digi­tised colour­ing, might have emerged from the Dis­ney im­print at any time in the stu­dio’s his­tory.

Adapted from a tril­ogy of Milne tales that in­cludes In Which Eey­ore Loses a Tail, In Which Christo­pher Robin Leads an Ex­poti­tion to the North Pole and In Which Rab­bit Has a Busy Day, the new Win­nie is in­dis­tin­guish­able from the old one. A sim­ple crea­ture, he craves honey and duets with his rum­bling tummy. Else­where, his friends fret over Eey­ore’s miss­ing ap­pendage and Christo­pher Robin’s pos­si­ble ap­pre­hen­sion by some­thing called a Back­son.

Tech­ni­cally, this is only Win­nie the Pooh’s sec­ond film (out­ings such as The Piglet Movie and The Tig­ger Movie were ac­tu­ally pieced to­gether from shorts), but at least two of the new sub­plots have fea­tured else­where. Oddly, we feel com­forted rather than gypped by the fa­mil­iar­ity. Af­ter all, not chang­ing is what a teddy bear does best. RE­TURN­ING HOME from a club in the wee hours, coked-up party an­i­mal Ludo (Jean Du­jardin) is blind­sided by a truck and con­fined to crit­i­cal care. Per­haps hor­ri­fied by his ac­ci­dent make-up, Ludo’s friends all de­cide to go on hol­i­day re­gard­less.

Ten­sions soon sur­face. Restau­ra­teur Max (François Cluzet) and chi­ro­prac­tor Vin­cent (Benoî Mag­imel) are hav­ing an awk­ward time of it. Both have trav­elled with wives and fam­i­lies but nei­ther can for­get about Vin­cent’s re­cent dec­la­ra­tion of love for his older friend and host. He’s not gay, he says. He doesn’t want to sleep with Max. He’s just re­ally, re­ally into him.

Ap­palled and dis­tressed by this out­break of bro­mance, Max re­treats and spends the en­tire va­ca­tion shout­ing and chas­ing weasels. No. Not cock­tail cabi­net metaphor­i­cal weasels. Ac­tual weasels.

Else­where, star-crossed swain An­toine, age­ing Lothario Eric and pot-smok­ing free spirit Marie (played by the di­rec­tor’s real-life part­ner, Mar­ion Cotil­lard) bump into each other with no dis­cern­able pur­pose be­yond swelling the ranks of a large, in­ex­pli­ca­bly di­verse trav­el­ling party.

We have many ques­tions. How did Guil­laume Canet, whose deft direc­tion made Tell No One a break­out global hit, came to pre­side over this dreary, non­sen­si­cal dram­edy? An orgy of clichés and im­plau­si­bil­ity, Lit­tle White Lies is an un­wel­come, in­fe­rior Gal­lic ri­poste of Couples Re­treat.

Ac­tu­ally, that’s not fair. Even that Vince Vaughn movie thought to in­clude vaguely peo­ple-shaped ob­jects like “Kirsten Davies as Wife” through­out. Canet’s script can barely muster such oned­i­men­sional squig­gles. We have no idea how this ill-de­fined mob of pe­tite bour­geoisie ended up be­ing pe­tites va­cances bud­dies. Their few dimly out­lined at­tributes in­di­cate lit­tle by way of com­mon ground and plenty by way of ir­ri­tants.

With no par­tic­u­lar place to go and an aw­fully long time to make the trek (two-and-a-half hour­splus!) Lit­tle White Lies is re­duced to ramp­ing up the score around mi­nor re­veals and tan­gen­tial de­vel­op­ments. The ef­fect runs counter to Joanna Hogg’s sim­i­larly themed and in­fin­itely su­pe­rior Joanna Hogg Un­re­lated and Ar­chi­pel­ago. But where those re­cent films strived to un­der­stand and un­der­line the dra­matic im­por­tance of small things, Canet’s film is triv­ial and en­tirely de­pen­dent on non-diegetic clues.

It’s all the swing of a sledge­ham­mer and none of the im­pact. Reader, we didn’t buy it for but one of its 154 min­utes. Wes Craven’s be­lated fourth en­try to the Scream fran­chise also opens this week, but

(as the 16-cert film is an­noy­ingly ti­tled) did not re­ceive a press screen­ing in Ire­land. Ap­par­ently the post­mod­ern jokes are, this time, at the ex­pense of hor­ror movie re­makes. David Ar­quette, Neve Camp­bell and Courteney Cox all re­turn. Who knows, it could be gre4t.

Seven’s a crowd: Win­nie the Pooh and crew

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