AA Milne readers will know Winnie the Pooh never actually met a heffalump in the original stories. In Pooh's Heffalump Movie, however, the mythical beast appears in the flesh, initiating a playful, gentle and blissfully short addition to Disney's ongoing kiddie franchise. Originally a straight-to-video title produced by the studio's Japanese subsidiary, the film will keep children amused without proving too much of an ordeal for grown-ups. And given Pooh's British roots, it's nice to hear some English accents propping up the voice cast.
As in The Tigger Movie (2000) and Piglet's Big Movie (2003), the bear of very little brain (voiced by Jim Cummings) again takes a back seat to one of the Hundred Acre Wood's other stuffed inhabitants.
This time around it's the miniature marsupial Roo (Nikita Hopkins) who, annoyed at being left out of a Heffalump hunt, decides to head into the forest and find the fearsome creature himself. But when he does, he realises Lumpy (Kyle Stanger), a baby elephant separated from his mother (Brenda Blethyn), is anything but terrifying.
"EVERY NOW AND THEN IT EXCEEDS ITS ASPIRATIONS"
It's all perfectly inoffensive, with director Frank Nissen pushing wholesome homilies about accepting others' differences and the value of friendship. Every now and then, however - as in a psychedelic fantasy sequence that recalls the 'Pink Elephants On Parade' number from Dumbo - the film exceeds its limited aspirations. And though Stanger's mumbling makes most of his dialogue unintelligible, the rest of the voice cast are so settled in their roles it's like meeting up with old friends.