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Published:July 15th, 2011 00:41 EST
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Movie Review: Winnie the Pooh

By Paulette Cohn

Usually remakes are less successful than the original, but that is not the case when Walt Disney Animation Studios returns to the Hundred Acre Woods for an updated Winnie the Pooh, featuring our honey-loving bear and his friends Tigger, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Kanga, Roo and, of course, the morose Eeyore.

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A lot of films and TV series claim to be entertainment for the whole family, but Winnie the Pooh actually delivers. It has all the charm of the original -- especially since, under the direction of Don Hall and Stephen Anderson, the studio returned to hand-drawn animation, giving the film the warmth you would expect from this classic.

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"The world that A.A. Milne created is a timeless world, and we wanted to maintain that," says Hall. "We`re not trying to give the characters modern contrivances. We want to keep it ageless, but one area we thought we could update was the humor."

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And the humor is sweetly funny. It will appeal to children and adults alike with a very funny tip of the hat to the "Who`s on First?" sketch made famous by Abbot and Costello.

One essential element to keeping Pooh as we remember him was to match his voice. Jim Cummings, who has been the voice of Winnie the Pooh since 1987, filling the shoes of the late, great Sterling Holloway, returned for the job. He also lends his talents to Tigger, stepping in for the departed Paul Winchell.

"I am probably more Tigger than Pooh," Cummings admits. "He is more boisterous and fun." It was a surprise to learn that Cummings often acts both roles at the same time, slipping in and out of each character. He explains, "The way the characters are written, they play off each other so well."

Another well-know voice actor, Tom Kenny, who also voices SpongeBob SquarePants, was brought in for the role of Rabbit.

"I said, `There have been three rabbits, which one should I be paying attention to? Which one are we voice matching?,`" he recalls. "And they said, `We`re looking for attitude and character, it doesn`t have to be a dead-on voice match.` So I had it a little easier than Jim, who has to invoke Tigger and Pooh."

Winnie the Pooh opens with a hungry Pooh with a "rumbly" tummy heading out on a search for "hunny," since his cupboards -- and honey pots -- are bare. Along the way, he meets up with a very despondent Eeyore, who has lost his "tael." Pooh rounds up the gang and they set off in search of the missing appendage. When they get a mysterious note from Christopher Robin that Owl mis-reads, they put aside the search for the tail in an attempt to rescue their friend who they fear has been captured by a terrifying creature called a "Backson."

With all the characters remaining true to their origins: Rabbit is still bossy, Owl thinks he is smarter than he is, Kanga is the loving parent and Tigger is his bouncy self, it makes for a very enjoyable day in the Hundred Acre Woods. Fans of the original and those who will be introduced to the characters for the very first time, will  leave the theater smiling.

Winnie the Pooh opens in theaters on Friday, July 15.