Tim Burton takes Disney’s beloved flying pachyderm on a new and somewhat dark journey in Walt Disney Studios’ latest live action+photo-realistic CGI remake Dumbo (2019).
This film merges the familiar narrative of the 1941 animated classic with a newly created circus-themed story. As in the original animated feature, the plot is set within a traveling troupe of circus and side show performers along with a menagerie of animals that travel from town to town by train (Casey Jr., of course). In this film, the year is 1919, the circus is the Medici Bros. Circus, and the ringleader is Max Medici (expertly played by Danny DeVito).
In addition to Max, we meet a slew of characters that are new to this story—most importantly the World War I veteran Holt Farrier (played by Colin Farrell) and his two children Milly (played by Nico Parker) and Joe (played by Finley Hobbins). Before the war, Holt and his wife had a successful circus act with horses. But when Holt goes away to fight in the war, he loses a lot—his wife dies, the horses get sold, and he loses one of his arms.
Although the circus is one big happy family, it is in financial straits; so much so, that Max bets the farm (or circus) on an exotic new elephant named Mrs. Jumbo. It also turns out that Mrs. Jumbo is pregnant. Since the horses are gone, Max puts Holt and his kids in charge of the precious elephants.
The first act of the film is basically the original Dumbo movie but with these additional characters. Once the original story is out of the way, it takes a wild turn into a brand new direction over the next two-thirds of the film. “Dumbo” (as the baby elephant gets nicknamed) the flying elephant is an instant hit and brings a much needed financial boost to the Medici Bros. Circus. The newfound success piques the interest of circus magnate V.A. Vandevere (played by Michael Keaton) who owns a destination circus attraction and amusement park called Dreamland. Vandevere offers to purchase Medici Bros. Circus and makes Max an offer too good to pass up. But once everyone arrives at Dreamland, things just might be a bit too good to be true.
Tim Burton is able to put his distinctive stylistic stamp on the film, which I mostly liked. His early 20th century circus aesthetic has just the right combination of nostalgia and charm along with his trademark quirkiness.
Other than Danny DeVito (and possibly Colin Farrell), I just didn’t feel like the acting was particularly strong from much of the cast. Also as previously mentioned, the two-thirds of the film that delve into this original new story take Dumbo the character into an unexpected and rather unpleasant place for my tastes. While a newly added animal rights subplot is a timely and important theme, and Dumbo himself still has the same motivations (he just wants to be with his mom), it just didn’t come together in a harmonious and cohesive fashion.
Ultimately, the film is less of a remake and more of a new story and adventure that Dumbo gets plopped into. I kept thinking during the film that it should have had a different title (maybe “Dumbo’s Adventure in Dreamland” or, jokingly, “Free Dumbo: A Dumbo Story”). I respect Tim Burton’s talent and creativity and you all know how much I love the Disney, but this latest “remake” is definitely one that makes you want to run away from the circus rather than to join it.
The Criterion Channel launches on April 8! It’s not too late to sign up for a charter membership and enjoy their “Movie of the Week” via your browser on your computer or smartphone. Last week’s “Movie of the Week” was the classic film noir Detour (1945). This week’s film is the bonkers Czechoslovak film The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (1962).
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Check out these new character posters that dropped today for Marvel Studios’ upcoming superhero fest Avengers: Endgame. There are 32 in all! The posters in full color are the characters that survived Thanos’ sinister snap at the end of Avengers: Infinity War last year.
As always, I want to see most everything. Since splitting into five people is not an option, I have to choose. It’s the ultimate in first world problems, but, still, it’s often a bit agonizing.
Day One – Thursday, April 11
My current plan is to spend the opening night of this year’s festival at the Egyptian Theatre. I’ll kick the festival off with the musical comedy Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell and part of the festival’s tribute to 20th Century Fox. Next up is a 35mm nitrate screening of the comedy The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) starring Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, and Shirley Temple.
Day Two – Friday, April 12
The difficult choices begin first thing on Friday. The festival is screening another film this year at the ArcLight Cinemas’ Cinerama Dome, Cinerama’s Russian Adventure (1966), which is the last of the Cinerama compilation films. On hand will be film historian and critic Leonard Maltin and editor Hal Dennis, Jr. Seeing a film in the Cinerama Dome is always a treat and this would definitely be a unique experience.
Instead, I’m probably going to start the day back at the Egyptian with screenings of the film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) and Walt Disney’s animated classic Sleeping Beauty (1959), which is celebrating its 60th anniversary. (Even though I’ve recently seen Sleeping Beauty on the big screen courtesy of D23, I don’t want to pass up another opportunity to see this gorgeous film.)
The next three films are in the TCL Chinese Multiplex: the classic silent film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927), François Truffaut’s dramedy Day for Night (1973), and the western Winchester ’73 (1950). (Or I might change my plans entirely in order to see Raiders of the Lost Ark in the TCL Chinese Theatre.) The midnight movie (if I can stay awake) is Mexican cult favorite Santo vs. the Evil Brain (1961). Honestly, I’d enjoy seeing any of the 20 movies playing Friday afternoon and evening (and I wouldn’t be surprised if I changed my plans).
Day Three – Saturday, April 13
There’s a new venue at the festival this year–the Legion Theater, part of Hollywood Post 43 of the American Legion. The theater was chartered in 1919 by World War I veterans who worked in the movie business and has recently undergone an extensive restoration. The pictures of it look beautiful and I’m excited to check it out.
The first two movies on Saturday are at the Legion Theater and are part of the festival’s 20th Century Fox tribute: the musical The Little Colonel (1935) starring Shirley Temple, and then a session dedicated to the history of 20th Century Fox entitled Fox: An Appreciation with a presentation by Schawn Belston, executive vice president of Media and Library Services at 20th Century Fox.
Then, it’s back to the TCL Chinese Multiplex for the comedy Father Goose (1964) with Cary Grant or the romantic drama Love Affair (1939), and Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975) with actors Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, Jeff Goldblum, and Joan Tewkesbury in attendance.
One of the toughest decisions (again, first world problems) of the festival schedule for me is between living out a life-long dream of seeing the original (well, it’s the “Special Edition”) Star Wars movie in the TCL Chinese Theater, Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), or seeing one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures Escape from New York (1981) with an intro by director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell. Star Wars is probably going to win (it’s one of my favorite movies ever), but it most likely will be a game time decision.
Day Four – Sunday, April 14
With five “TBA” slots on the Sunday schedule, I’m going to play it by ear that day. I also plan to attend a TCM Backlot event at 1:30 p.m. at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. I’m really hoping to be able to see The Godfather Part II (1974) on the big screen, but again, we’ll just have to see what ultimately gets scheduled and what’s going on.
While the TCM Classic Film Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary, the TCM network is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Its first day of broadcasting was on April 14, 1994 and the very first film the network played was the seminal classic Gone with the Wind (1939). The film will be shown in the TCL Chinese Theatre on Sunday afternoon at the festival, and it will also be shown on the network that same day. I’ve decided to record it on my DVR and watch it on TV when I get home, which somehow seems appropriate.
The 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival will be held April 11-14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. For details, visit tcm.com/festival.
So we already know that I’m not thrilled that the Walt Disney Studios is using their immense resources and creativity into just remaking their entire animated catalog. Still, these remakes have all been very high quality thus far and overall quite entertaining (still, I’d wish they’d stop it and apply their money and creativity elsewhere).
Next up in the remake queue is Dumbo, which is being reimagined by director Tim Burton. I’m curious and hopeful that it will be good.
Poster Posse has released some new poster collaborations for the film and they are really nice.
Dumbo opens in theaters March 29. I’m seeing it opening weekend and will post a full review on the blog soon thereafter.
Yesterday’s announcements for the 2019 Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Classic Film Festival got me pretty stoked.
Escape from New York is one of my all-time guilty pleasures and it blows my mind that I might have the chance to see it with both Kurt Russell and the film’s director John Carpenter in attendance. And the chance to see Nashville on the big screen, again with members of the cast there, is so cool and is just what the TCM Classic Film Festival is all about.
My pass arrived yesterday, too! Can’t wait!
With the theme of “Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies,” the lineup for the 10th annual TCM Classic Film Festival keeps getting better and better. For the latest information and updates, visit tcm.com/festival. See you in Hollywood April 11-14!