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Top 5 – ways for the live-action Winnie the Pooh remake to not suck

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Barely audible above the sound of a thousand barrels having their bottoms scraped, last week saw the announcement of a live action Winnie the Pooh remake. As the parent of a Tigger-mad three-year-old, I’m going to have to watch it at least once and possibly hundreds more times after that, so I desperately want it to be good. The concept needs as much help as it can get, so here are five golden rules that it must follow to stand a chance of not being terrible

Rule no. 1 – no bad guys

You hear the phrase “live action Winnie the Pooh remake”, and it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to picture Ricky Gervais playing a moustache-twirlingly villainous real estate developer who wants to concrete over the Hundred Acre Wood, or Christopher Walken slumming it as a mad scientist who wants to harness Tigger’s bounce as a source of renewable energy. This absolutely must not happen. Pooh’s adventures have always been characterised by a complete absence of jeopardy, with the characters’ own foolishness the only thing that ever threatens their idyllic existence. 2011’s Winnie the Pooh exemplified this, with the gang facing off against the Backson, a terrifying but nonexistent creature entirely of their own invention. This is a fundamental rule of films for young children that 2014’s Postman Pat movie got disastrously wrong, with it’s army of malfunctioning robot Pats horribly at odds with the misbehaving farm animals and Pat’s general hopelessness at his job that provide the bulk of the TV show’s drama. A one-line summary of any prospective plot should end with the words “…with hilarious consequences”, and shouldn’t contain a trace of irony

On a related note…

Rule no. 2 – no irony

The oft-circulated idea that each of AA Milne’s creations embodies a particular form of mental health issue is an interesting one, for sure, but it isn’t one that a film for kids needs to address in any way. While having Pooh’s friends stage an intervention over his obvious substance abuse issues, or making a sly, winking reference to how many times Rabbit washes his hands, might check a box that reads “humour that goes over childrens’ heads but appeals to adults”, the wry smile of recognition that it induces first time round will rapidly be replaced by complete indifference after multiple viewings. Straightforward whimsical silliness, on the other hand, takes much longer to get old – I’ve seen the scene above a double-digit number of times, and it still makes me chuckle

Rule no. 3 – keep Carly Simon away from it

I’ve resigned myself to the near-inevitabilty of there being songs in the new film, and with it the absolute inevitability of them being stuck in my head for days at a time (side note – I currently don’t have a song from Frozen stuck in my head, for the first time in forever. Oh, BOLLOCKS). Now, while no-one but the most ardent of Pooh apologists would claim that Heffalumps and Woozles from 1977’s Many Adventures is anything other than a Poundshop Pink Elephants on Parade, I would rather have that beamed directly into my eardrums every night for the rest of my life than listen to anything from Piglet’s Big Movie again. It might be a little bit strong to refer to A Mother’s Intuition as an abomination, but the very fact that it was necessary to use the qualifier “might be” should tell you everything you need to know

Long story short – I’m sure that she’s a nice lady, and probably has grandchildren who are big Winnie the Pooh fans, but Carly Simon’s musical contributions to the Pooh movies are bad and get worse with repeated listening

Rule no. 4 – cast for the voices, not the names

Stephen Mangan is a great comic actor. Green Wing was excellent, Episodes good too – heck, he even made some highly watchable BarclayCard adverts. For all his virtues, though, he sounds nothing like Postman Pat, and was therefore an automatically bad choice to provide the voice of Postman Pat in the Postman Pat movie. It’s an exceptionally simple rule that is ignored all too often, as if there’s an unwritten law which states that as soon as your film exceeds a certain budget you have to at least approach Stephen Fry to see if he fancies voicing any of the posh characters. People will go and see a Winnie the Pooh film because it’s got Winnie the Pooh in it, not because Robert De Niro spent nine months thinking thoughts of nothing but existential despair to really nail the character of Eeyore. Jim Cummings and co will do just fine, thanks

Rule no. 5 – maybe think about giving animation a shot instead of live action?

Just sayin’

Top 5 is a regular feature which is published every Tuesday. For more from the series, check out the archive


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