Dumbo (2019)

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins

Screenplay: Ehren Kruger

112 mins. Rated PG for peril/action, some thematic elements and brief mild language.

 

Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Beetlejuice) seemed like an odd choice for Dumbo, right?

When Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell, The Lobster, Widows) returns from the war, his job at the circus is gone, and circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito, Matilda, Twins) assigns him to the elephants, where he meets baby Dumbo, an adolescent elephant ridiculed by many for his unusually-sized ears. When Holt’s children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), discover that Dumbo is able to fly with the aid of his ears, they set forth to save the failing circus, attracting the attention of the sinister salesman V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton, Birdman, American Assassin).

I want to start by saying I love it when Disney actually takes a property and updates it for a live-action release. As much as I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast, I would rather have a different take on the film, like what Cinderella and Aladdin did. This is done again here, but it doesn’t work as well. Dumbo 2019 is a different film than its predecessor, and I respect that, but the results are hit-or-miss. It all boils down to the screenplay by Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Ghost in the Shell), which doesn’t really revive as much magic from the source material as one would like. It feels very straight-forward and, in that process, loses some of the magic and soul that a film like Dumbo should have. Events just kind of happen, and with a more muted Burton directing the film, it feels hollow at times.

Now there is magic, particularly to the central relationship between Farrell, Parker, and Hobbins, who are trying to reconnect after war and tragedy have decimated their family. I also really enjoyed DeVito’s Max Medici. At this point in his career, DeVito knows how to play to the circus performance character, and he really collaborates with Burton quite well.

Michael Keaton’s zany performance as Vandevere starts out strong but really never goes anywhere. He is quirky because he’s in a Tim Burton movie and not for any particularly villainous reason. He’s unlikable, and maybe because he’s a villain, that’s a good thing, but it didn’t really work entirely for me.

Now, the scenes involving Dumbo are crafted very nicely by Burton. His visual take on the CG elephant works really well, and it makes for some truly captivating moments. It’s here where the film shines, and in that way, it is quite similar to films like Godzilla and Transformers in that the CG stuff works better than most of the human characters, but not to that extent, I suppose.

Dumbo is a mish-mash of elements, some that work really well and some that don’t. It’s uneven in this way, with a screenplay that doesn’t reach the heights a flying elephant should be able to rocket it, a director who feels somewhat asleep at the wheel or possibly incorrectly hired, but a group of performers and a cute-as-a-button flying elephant make for an enjoyable experience. It’s a scathing critique of Disney culture made by Disney that doesn’t always know who it should be appealing to; kids will like the Dumbo stuff but the rest of the plot mostly services adults. Still, I enjoyed myself and find the film to be a rather fair addition to Disney’s live-action shelf.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Batman, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, click here.

For my review of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows, click here.

[12 Days of Christmas] On the Second Day… Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)

silentnightdeadlynightpart21987a

Director: Lee Harry

Cast: Jean Miller, Eric Freeman, Elizabeth Kaitan, James L. Newman

Screenplay: Lee Harry, Joseph H. Earle

88 mins. Rated R.

 

Sometimes, you get sequels that enrich the original film while furthering the ideas put forth by its predecessor. Sometimes, you get a sequel that spends its first half with flashbacks of the first film. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is the latter.

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After seeing his brother gunned down on Christmas, Ricky Caldwell (Eric Freeman, Children of the Corn) begins to display the same disturbed behavior that Billy had. As he is interviewed by Dr. Henry Bloom (James L. Newman, Flags of Our Fathers, Evan Almighty), Ricky describes the events that led him to a psychiatric hospital, all the while displaying his anger towards Mother Superior (Jean Miller) for her involvement in Ricky’s descent into madness.

This film makes absolutely no sense and nothing actually happens. There are plot holes galore, like the fact that Ricky is just able to walk out the front door of his asylum unnoticed.

Eric Freeman’s performance is nails on a chalkboard. He says his lines in the same monotone voice that would drive anyone he speaks with to a mental institution themselves. Beyond getting himself immortalized in a Youtube video forever, Freeman cannot act himself through the framing device of the film’s first half. He might have Voice Immodulation, so I guess I can’t blame him. No wait, yes I can.

Elizabeth Kaitan (Twins, Spy Hard) is another such actress, but she holds up slightly better in other movies, barely. We know why she is here, though. She shows up. She gets naked. She gets murdered. Standard Elizabeth Kaitan performance.

The trouble started with a poor original film for a sequel, followed by a low budget and a bad screenplay. They continue on with more blandness until your finished project is so bad that a drinking game was invented to get through it. DRINKING GAME: Drink every time Ricky adjusts his eyebrows. Drink responsibly, though, folks. He does this at least 100 times in the film. You have been warned.

 

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“GARBAGE DAY!”

 

Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 is just plain garbage. There you go.

 

 

1/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Silent Night, Deadly Night, click here.

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