Movie review: 'Dumbo'

 Disney classic receives the Tim Burton treatment with slightly iffy results

Posted 3/31/19

By Rick Romancito

tempo@taosnews.com

 

A favorite of children and adults since its release in 1941, the original Disney animated "Dumbo" brought a sweet fantasy to life that has …

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Movie review: 'Dumbo'

 Disney classic receives the Tim Burton treatment with slightly iffy results

Posted
By Rick Romancito
 
A favorite of children and adults since its release in 1941, the original Disney animated "Dumbo" brought a sweet fantasy to life that has remained embedded in our memories thanks to a rendering that imbued familial love and innocence. But, it was a product of its time and certainly not politically correct, as if that term even existed at the time. Still, its essence was sincere and enormously endearing.
 
Why, then, did the folks at Disney decide to do a live action remake? Like "Beauty and The Beast," "Cinderella," and the soon-to-be-released "The Lion King" and "Aladdin," this "renaissance" has resulted in movies so obvious in their efforts to make a buck they almost mirror the shady carnival barker's come-on. And, because the premise in 2019's "Dumbo" is grounded in a tangible visual style, its focus moves from the central character to the human cast. Plus, the animals do not talk.
 
Director Tim Burton has trolled these waters before, most notably in "Big Fish," which stands as one of the great examples of cinematic storytelling. He even taps Danny DeVito to again play the leader of a down-on-its-luck traveling circus. 
 
Set in the post-World War I American south, Max's Medici Brothers Circus has left its winter headquarters in Florida for a tour of the south and midwest on its famous Casey Jr. train. While the animated film was bright and sunny, punctuated with bits that pointedly cast a shadow on people who made fun of anyone's differentness, Burton creates a darker storyline that hits us hard in an opening scene when two children are reunited with their father who went away to the war and haven't seen in a long time. The kids, Milly and Joe Farrier (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins), lost their mom while dad was away. Now, when they see dad, Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), they discover he has been injured in the war.
 
Holt was a star attraction with the circus before the war. His cowboy act featuring trick riding, roping and shooting gave him top billing and throngs of fans. Now, Max (DeVito) is reluctant to have him back because, for one, he sold all the horses, and two, he has no money, and three, because of Holt's injury, Max doubts he can do what he did before. 
 
The bright spot to all this is, of course, the birth of a little elephant with huge ears. But, his arrival is considered an aberration at first because of those ears, that is until Milly and Joe discover this little guy has a very special talent.
 
This film builds each character and situation to support a vision of how the circus, at this place in time, was a community unto its own, how all the people and animals and their specialties worked together to survive hard times. Darker, more unpleasant elements as suggested by the HBO series "Carnavale" (2003-2005) are entirely avoided. But, elements of style via Burton's quirky lens and his expanded circus universe as seen in "Big Fish" and "Batman Returns" suggest worlds not entirely separate. 
 
Part of the reason, one supposes, for translating a beloved animated classic to live action is to paint a larger canvas. For Burton, broad strokes are his forté. This is most evident in scenes where Medici's circus hits the big time after Dumbo's talent is discovered and are taken under the wing of V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), an ultra-wealthy entrepreneur who runs Dreamland, the biggest most advanced amusement park in the world. There, the family meets a beautiful aerialist named Colette (Eva Green) who is paired with Dumbo in an act Vandevere knows will make even more money for him.
 
Greed, exploitation and deception are pitted against innocence and familial love, qualities that certainly were present in 1941, but today are more complex and amplified by daily headlines. Burton's film attempts to have audiences leave the theater with the same kind of warm glow bestowed by the original film, but that movie's emotional impact came from a simple, uncomplicated place. It was also made almost exclusively for children to see. Burton's movie is worth watching, but you can leave your hankies at home.
 
Tempo grade: B
 
“Dumbo” is rated PG for peril/ action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language.
 
It is screening daily at Mitchell Theatres Storyteller Cinema 7, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
 
Also showing in Taos:
 
Gloria Bell
 
MPAA rating: R for sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use.
 
Mitchell Storyteller 7 Theatres
 
In this film directed by Sebastian Lelio, based on his own Chilean 2013 feature, focuses on Gloria (Julianne Moore), a free-spirited divorcée who spends her days at a straight-laced office job and her nights on the dance floor, joyfully letting loose at clubs around Los Angeles. 
 
After meeting Arnold (John Turturro) on a night out, she finds herself thrust into an unexpected new romance, filled with both the joys of budding love and the complications of dating, identity and family.
 
Co-stars include Michael Cera, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Brad Garrett, Holland Taylor and Rita Wilson.
 
It is screening daily at Mitchell Theatres Storyteller Cinema 7, 110 Old Talpa Cañón Road. For show times, tickets and additional information, call (575) 751-4245 or visit storyteller7.com.
 
The Heiresses
 
MPAA rating: Not rated, but does contain mature content.
 
Taos Community Auditorium
 
Chela and Chiquita (Ana Brun and Margarita Irun), both descended from wealthy families in Asunción, Paraguay, have been together as a couple for over 30 years. But recently their financial situation has worsened and they begin selling off their inherited possessions. 
 
When their debts lead to Chiquita being imprisoned on fraud charges, Chela is forced to face a new reality. Driving for the first time in years, she begins to provide a local taxi service to a group of elderly wealthy ladies. As Chela settles into her new life, she encounters the much younger Angy (Ana Ivanova), forging a fresh and invigorating new connection. 
 
Chela finally begins to break out of her shell and engage with the world, embarking on her own personal, intimate revolution.
 
International multi-award winning film written and directed by Marcelo Martinessi.
 
This film will be screened at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday (April 1) and at 7 p.m. Monday through Friday (April 2-5) at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For tickets and additional information, call (575) 758-2052 or visit tcataos.org.

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