"PIGLET's BIG Movie" is Disney's animated take on "It's a Wonderful Life" for those not long out of diapers. Anyone younger than that will find the flashback structure of the genial Winnie the Pooh spinoff -- in which Piglet's friends from the Hundred Acre Wood come to appreciate him only after he goes missing -- a mite too complicated to follow. For those much older, well, let's just say that the 7-year-old I took to a recent screening laughed less (a lot less) than the two 3 1/2-year-olds he came with.
Of course, don't expect it to be as charming as Pooh and Company's Sebastian Cabot-narrated adventures from the late 1960s and early 1970s. How could it be? Back then, the stories at least seemed respectful of the A.A. Milne classics on which they were based. The idea that Pooh could become an endlessly sequelized franchise, a kind of big- and little-screen marketing tool for a cottage industry of plush toys, sippy cups, lunch boxes and storybooks, hadn't yet occurred to anyone.
Oh well. It was a more innocent time.
That said, "Big Movie" could be a lot worse. The story, in which Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger, Roo and Rabbit reminisce about Piglet after the little pink porker disappears in a sulk when he is ignored once too often, is genuinely sweet. I have to admit that even I grew a little misty-eyed during the animals' tearful reunion with their wee pal (and I hope I'm not spoiling anything by saying that, no, Piglet's body is not found at the bottom of some ravine, eaten by heffalumps and woozles).
There's plenty of gentle slapstick involving angry honeybees, giant snowballs and that ineffable quality called "bounciness." With little physical jeopardy beyond the mild threat of rushing water, there shouldn't be too many nightmares for anyone, either. And the important lesson -- that friends should be cherished before it's too late -- is not a bad thing to learn early.
It's a wonderful "Piglet"? Maybe not wonderful, but still pretty darn good.
PIGLET'S BIG MOVIE (G, 75 minutes) -- Contains nothing offensive. Area theaters.