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Movie review: Dumb and ‘Dumbo’

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    Computer Generated Imagery Dumbo star of live-action remake of “Dumbo.”

Published April 10. 2019 12:27PM

The live-action “Dumbo” movie is an entertaining comedy-drama that the entire family should enjoy.

Movies rated PG or G movies are typically in the minority of theatrical feature movie releases, and “Dumbo” is one of them.

Based on a report by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which administers movie ratings, more than 50 percent of movies released since the rating system went into effect 50 years ago received an R rating, that is, 17,202 films. That compares to 5,578 films rated PG, 4,913 films rated PG-13 (implemented in 1984), and 1,574 films rated G.

That said, “the elephant in the room,” or in this instance, “the elephant in the movie theater,” is “Dumbo.”

“Dumbo” is a restrained feature film from the metaphysically antic director Tim Burton, a two-time Oscar nominee for animated feature for “Frankenweenie” (2012) and “Corpse Bride” (2015), who also directed “Ed Wood” (1994), “Edward Scissorhands” (1990), “Batman” (1989) and “Beetlejuice” (1988).

“Dumbo” reteams two actors Burton directed in “Batman Returns” (1992), Danny DeVito (The Joker) and Michael Keaton (Batman), who was also in “Beetlejuice.”

DeVito plays Max Medici, ringmaster of the Medici Brothers Circus. Michael Keaton plays V.A. Vandevere, who buys the Medici Circus from its touring days via railroads across the United States to a permanent location in Dreamland, a Coney Island style amusement park in New York.

“Dumbo” also stars Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier, a World War I veteran whose arm was amputated in the war; Eva Green as Colette Marchant, a trapeze artist, and Alan Arkin as a banker. Nico Parker is Milly and Finley is Joe, Farrier’s two children.

The screenplay is by Ehren Kruger, who wrote screenplays for three “Transformers” movies (2014, 2011, 2009), “Blood and Chocolate” (2007), “The Brothers Grimm” (2005), “The Ring” (2002), “Reindeer Games” (2000) and “Arlington Road” (1999).

The screenplay is also credited to Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, writers of “Dumbo,” the 1941 book that Walt Disney Studios turned into the classic 64-minute animated feature film of the same title released in 1941.

The screenplay invokes beasts on the loose, prohibited imported animals and don’t mess with nature themes from “Jurassic Park” (1993) and “King Kong” (1933, 2005).

Visually, the production design is reminiscent of “The Rocketeer” (1991) and “Dick Tracy” (1990).

The live-action “Dumbo” uses some of the plot elements of the original animated feature, including a feather, or feathers, that motivates Dumbo to fly.

Dumbo’s oversized ears are part of the computer-generated imagery, which allow him to fly. The ears are the size of a paraglider, and give him power and grace.

The CGI of the character of Dumbo is incredibly realistic. The baby elephant is seamlessly integrated into scenes with human characters. The flying Dumbo is more problematic, and sometimes looks a bit awkward and out of scale with the backgrounds.

The pace of the film and Burton’s style of directing is the biggest problem with “Dumbo.” Burton telegraphs nearly every plot point and holds static shots on some characters needlessly long.

Moreover, the acting, with some exceptions in a few scenes, doesn’t elevate the predictable plot.

The Disney magic is lacking.

Even so, youngsters, preteens and parents should enjoy the pleasant diversion of the live-action “Dumbo.”

“Dumbo,” MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested Some material may not be suitable for children. Parents urged to give “parental guidance.” May contain some material parents might not like for their young children.) for peril-action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language; Genre: Fantasy, Adventure; Run time: 1 hr., 52 mins. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: The version of the Academy Award-nominated song, “Baby Mine,” from the 1941 Disney animated “Dumbo” feature, with music by Frank Churchill and lyrics by Ned Washington, is by Sharon Rooney and Arcade Fire and, during the end credits, by Norwegian singer Aurora. “Dumbo” was filmed on location in Cardington, Bedfordshire, and in Pinewood Studios, England.

Box Office, April 5-7: “Shazam!,” the DC Comics superhero spoof, sent the pachyderm packing, with $53.4 million, weekend; $56.7 million since opening April 4, as “Dumbo” glided down two places to No. 3 with $18.2 million, $76.2 million, two weeks, with the “Pet Sematary” remake opening at No. 2 with $25 million.

4. “Us” dropped two places, with $13.8 million, $152.3 million, three weeks. 5. “Captain Marvel” dropped two places, with $12.6 million, $374.1 million, five weeks. 6. “The Best of Enemies,” $4.5 million, opening. 7. “Five Feet Apart” dropped two places, $3.7 million, $41.5 million, four weeks. 8. “Unplanned” dropped four places, $3.2 million, $12.4 million, two weeks. 9. “Wonder Park” dropped three places, $2 million, $41.9 million, four weeks. 10. “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” dropped three places, $1.9 million, $156.6 million, seven weeks.

Unreel, April 12:

“Missing Link,” PG: Chris Butler directs the voice talents of Zoe Saldana, Timothy Olyphant, Hugh Jackman and Emma Thompson in the animated feature comedy. Mr. Link asks Sir Lionel Frost to locate his lost relatives in Shangri-La.

“Hellboy,” R: Neil Marshall directs David Harbour, Ian McShane, Milla Jovovich and Penelope Mitchell in the horror film based on graphic novels, aka comic books, by Mike Mignola.

“Little,” PG-13: Tina Gordon directs Justin Hartley, Marsai Martin, Regina Hall and Issa Rae in the fantasy comedy. A woman is transformed back in time to her younger self.

“High Life,” R: Claire Denis directs Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin and Mia Goth in the science fiction film about a father and daughter living in outer space.

Two popcorn boxes out of five popcorn boxes.

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