When the citizens of Hundred Acre Wood hear a troubling rumbling in the distance, they decide to investigate, insisting that an evil Heffalump (a purple elephant-like creature) is nearby. When young Roo is excluded from the expedition due to his age, he tears off into the mysterious woods anyway, meeting up with Lumpy, a baby Heffalump out having fun. At first fearful and guarded around Lumpy, Roo soon befriends the Heffalump, and the two become close buddies. However, the friendship is tested when Pooh and the gang make their way into Heffalump territory, looking to trap anything they find.
Taking into consideration the recent epidemic of so called "family" films that have crammed themselves with crude material and obnoxious performances, "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" (IMDb listing) feels like watching "Citizen Kane" all over again. A modest animated feature that lucked into a theatrical release, "Heffalump" is a film of small charms, but its delights sound out loudly in today's depressing kid-film marketplace.
It's a shock to the system to see a traditionally animated film in this day and age, when the CG Shrekification of animated films has ruined everything. "Heffalump" doesn't stray far from the known quantities: Pooh loves "hunny," Tigger bounces around, and Rabbit is the know-it-all. Yet, "Heffalump" has great fun cartwheeling around the colorfully familiar Hundred Acre Wood, with the gang comedically preparing themselves for the worst when encountering a Heffalump. It's an easy film to like, and refreshingly unobtrusive with its storytelling or implementation of messages, which salutes the virtues of friendship and acceptance without stopping the film cold. Funny how some simple ink and paint, along with a little audience appreciation can make for such an enjoyable time.
Amplifying the appealing story are the voice talents, especially the delightful work by young Jimmy Bennett as Roo and Kyle Stanger as Lumpy the Heffalump. Stanger is a real find, with director Frank Niessen coaxing a sugary and playful vocal performance out of the 6-year-old British boy, milking his warm accent for everything it's worth. Roo and Lumpy are the real stars of the film, with each actor finding the sweet spot of innocence, while also relishing the specific bliss of maternal endearment (with Kath Soucie and Brenda Blethyn as Roo and Lumpy's affectionate mothers).
"Heffalump" is the rare animated feature that, at 65 minutes, knows when to call it quits. The film is short, terribly sweet and genuinely moving, and even includes some engaging original songs, provided by Carly Simon (who also worked on "Piglet's Big Movie"). Faced with multiplexes that feature Ice Cube taking repeated crotch hits or a pair of talking flies who swim in feces, the humble delights in "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" are just what the doctor ordered. Imagine a film that respects your children! Here it is.
Filmfodder Grade: A-