Walt Disney Pictures is working its way through A.A. Milne's beloved "Winnie the Pooh" characters. After the success of "The Tigger Movie" in 2001, it was only a matter of time before another Pooh pal got his own starring vehicle.
The positive message of the winning "Piglet's Big Movie" (next up is "The Heffalump Movie") is also the underlying message of the film's marketing: Piglet may be a supporting character, but he's star enough to carry a film.
"Piglet's Big Movie," with its welcome lessons on friendship and self-esteem, is not only appropriate for preschoolers, but it also has enough sophistication for older kids. The put-upon Piglet feels underappreciated. The other denizens of Pooh Corner get recognition and attention while he's overlooked, owing to his small size. When a storm hits the Hundred Acre Wood and Piglet turns up missing, Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit and the gang try to find him, using Piglet's scrapbook of drawings as their guide.
Piglet's colorful doodlings serve as flashbacks; leafing through the book, the pals realize Piglet's unsung accomplishments. The mini-stories - all previously unproduced tales from Milne's collection - work well within the larger story. Piglet builds a stick house for mopey Eeyore; he poses as baby Roo to fool wise mother Kanga. Once his friends realize Piglet's importance, their quest to find him takes on added urgency.
John Fielder, the 77-year-old performer who has been Piglet's voice ever since the Oscar-winning short "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" (1968), is the only remaining original talent providing a voice for a Pooh character. The innocence and simplicity he brings to Piglet is a big part of why the character and film are so likable.
The animation is a mix of traditional and computer-generated, but the film is mostly made up of inviting watercolor art that gives it a classic look. Likewise, Carly Simon's lullaby-like originals ("With a Few Good Friends," "If I Wasn't So Small"), along with her version of the classic "Pooh" theme, underscore events and deepen character.
3 stars (out of 4)
"Piglet's Big Movie"
Opens Friday, March 21. Running time: 1:15. MPAA rating: G.