Not every blockbuster or franchise starter/wannabe can – or should – be seen through a superhero prism, but Dumbo, Tim Burton’s (Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, Edward Scissorhands) misguided remake of the 1941 Disney animated classic, certainly can be. The superhero in question can’t speak or even control his own destiny (for that, he depends on the kindness of strangers), but he can communicate except through overlarge, blue eyes, giant, floppy ears, and expressive body language. And like every superhero, he has a tragic backstory (forcible separation from his mother) that unfolds in reel time, and a unique superpower (flight) that once used purely for good and not entertainment, will help free them both from the chains of captivity. He’s also an outcast, a pariah among his own kind, the deliberate subject of ridicule, humiliation, and shame. In short, the all-CGI title character is a misfit-outsider after Burton’s own, not-yet-curdled, middle-aged heart.
Unfortunately for Burton and his audience (i.e., us), doubling the original’s thankfully brief 64-minute running time effectively means opening up Dumbo, shifting the focus from Dumbo and his plight to a circus family also beset by tragedy (the symmetrical loss of a mother and a visibly wounded war veteran) and the larger circus itself, beset less by tragedy than a sputtering post-war economy that has little room or space for their kind of old-school entertainment. Not that there’s anything wrong per se in the non-Dumbo circus characters, Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), the aforementioned war veteran, a one-time trick horseman and circus mainstay pre-war injury, or his two children, Milly (Nico Parker), a wannabe scientist in early 20th-century America, and her younger brother, Joe (Finley Hobbins). They make for an endearing, if remarkably well scrubbed, trio. It’s just that their individual and collective story often distracts from Dumbo’s journey from sideshow outcast to world-class entertainer and beyond. (Props for Dumbo’s surprising, surprisingly welcome pro-conservation, anti-animals-in-circuses-or-zoos message.)
And when Dumbo isn’t focused on the Farriers and their intra-personal jousts, conflicts, and reconciliations, it’s focused on the circus proper, specifically owner-ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito), a kind-hearted, well-meaning impresario who treats circus workers less as employees than an extended family. Burton and his screenwriter, Ehren Kruger, use broad strokes to introduce the circus performers, most of whom leave little if any mark. To Burton, however, the circus represents a near-socialist utopia of equals or near-equals, with only one or two mean-spirited workers who represent both the worst humanity has to offer (i.e., cruelty to animals) and function as a plot device (one callously instigates the incident that separates Dumbo from his mother, Jumbo). The real villain, V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), a Trump-like venal, morally and ethically bankrupt showman, doesn’t appear until the bloated, overlong, and over-indulgent second half. He’s as bland, dull, and uninteresting a villain as any found in Disney’s animation library.
Once Dumbo switches from the shabby, worn-out environs of the picture-book circus to Vandevere’s static amusement/theme park, Dreamland, Dumbo practically stalls out. Besides Vandevere and his machinations to permanently separate Dumbo from the circus, Dumbo introduces another characters, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), an aerialist who proves crucial to the evolution of Dumbo’s high-flying act and – no surprise here – a potential surrogate mother and significant other to the Farrier children and their wounded father, respectively. She has a semi-tragic history too (because of course, everyone who’s not a villain in Dumbo does). In exchange for a career and financial stability, Colette has handed over control of her life to Vandevere. A minor-league, bald henchman, Neils Skellig (Joseph Gatt), in thrall to Vandevere for no discernible reason other than the usual villain’s need for gofers and day-to-day evildoing, and J. Griffin Remington (Alan Arkin), a crotchety, curmudgeonly banker who holds the financial keys to Vandevere’s future, round out the non-circus performers.
As a director, Burton’s recent career has floundered more than it has soared (to deliberately mix metaphors). His attempt to start an X-Men-inspired franchise in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children failed to generate much interest from audiences while his attempt at spectacle-free drama, Big Eyes, came and went with little fanfare despite another winning turn from Amy Adams. And while his biggest successes over the last twenty years, Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, generously filled the coffers of their respective producers/studios, they did little to discourage the argument that Burton’s best days as a filmmaker with something to say, with the equivalent of a vision beyond CGI-driven, heavily production designed filmmaking, were and will remain behind him. With the occasional moment or scene in Dumbo, all but one or two tied to the Dumbo character and his plight (Burton spends close to half of Dumbo’s running time in close-ups of Dumbo’s large, expressive eyes), he does little to convince naysayers that they’re wrong.
The first trailer has arrived for Disney’s live-action remake of Dumbo which blends a Greatest Showman style circus tale with the directorial stylings of Tim Burton. Based on a storyline written by Helen Aberson. The film stars Collin Farrell, MIchael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, and Alan Arkin.
This live-action film reworks the tale of the bullied elephant with big ears. Farrier (Farrell) is a former horse showman and war veteran who’s taking care of his two kids after his wife passed away. Their world changes after circus owner Max (DeVito who seems to have kept his costume from Big Fish) buys a pregnant elephant who gives birth to Dumbo with his giant ears.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a show about five of the worst world people in the word. They are rude to everyone, shamelessly arrogant, so self-centred that they are almost entirely ignorant of the world outside their own little bubble and have absolutely no regard for the rest of humanity. The five of them collectively own and staff a grotty bar in Philadelphia called Paddy’s Pub. The show chronicles the adventures they have in the city. There is nothing appealing as human beings about any of them.
And yet they are the central focus of a show that has been running on FX – and FXX since it hit season nine – for twelve years now. (more…)
This time next week, Beauty and the Beast will be in theatres everywhere as Disney‘s latest effort to live-action-ize its entire animated catalogue. Meanwhile, pre-production is underway on the next couple of projects, one of them being Dumbo based on the 1941 hit about an elephant with large ears who learns to use his mocked appendages to fly. Now obviously Dumbo himself is going to be CG, but there’s some room for human characters, and director Tim Burton looks to fill those spots with trusted collaborators, first with the previously announced Eva Green, and now with Danny DeVito, marking his first team-up with Burton in 14 years. (more…)
It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia returned to television last week for its tenth season and star Danny Devito was making the publicity rounds at the Television Critics Association Winter Tour to promote the show. Access Hollywood attended and asked Devito the question a lot of us were wondering about, “What’s he think of the new Penguin (Robin Taylor) on Gotham?” (more…)
Tim Burton has been doing the promotion circuit for his new film Big Eyes – which, surprisingly, doesn’t star a dressed up idiosyncratic-characteristic Johhny Depp, or a gothic looking Helena Bonham Carter – which is due to be released on Christmas day. Talking about everything from Beetlejuice 2 being closer than ever going into production, to how he has missed working with Michael Keaton, and now he has been talking about the superhero comic book genre and how much it has changed in the last 20 years. Burton, who isn’t usually one for too much controversy, has hit out with a belter of an opinion which will no doubt be splitting comic book fans and film fans down the middle. (more…)
We have to wait a little longer to see Christopher Nolan‘s The Dark Knight Rises, and NerdBastards’ Matthew Jackson is dealing with the wait by filling his head with as many other Batman tales as possible. In the six weeks leading up to the flick’s release, he’ll be revisiting all six Batman franchise films so far (yes, even the crap ones) and writing retrospective essays on what worked, what didn’t, and what each film means to the franchise at large.
After my essay on Batman last week, a reader theorized that the biggest problem with the Tim Burton-era Batman films is in fact Tim Burton. After all, he’s been rather publicly dismissive of comic books overall, and he’s always more interested in the visual aspect of his films than the characters that populate them. While it might be the most powerfully distilled version of a Tim Burton superhero movie, and that may be a big problem for some viewers, Batman Returns is a fascinating, darkly gorgeous entry in the franchise with far fewer and (mostly) shallower flaws than its predecessor.
Hollywood is either trolling, or they’ve officially run out of ideas. April Fools Day isn’t until Sunday so I’m thinking the latter.
A sequel to Twins -the 1988 comedy in which Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger starred as genetically engineered but not quite identical brothers – is officially happening. Universal and Montecito Picture Co. are developing it. And if things work out the way the companies want, Eddie Murphy will be the third brother.
THR says “the story would see Schwarzenegger and DeVito as brothers Julius and Vincent, conceived experimentally, who discover they have third sibling.”
The film will be called Triplets. Naturally.
Devito, with all the crazy shit he’s done on Always Sunny in Phildephia has no shame. It’s with out question, he’s on board. In fact, DeVito has talked actively about doing it. Schwarzenegger on the other hand, I know he has fallen on hard times, with the infidelity and what not, but even he has admit this is a bad idea.
On second thought. I’m starting to think we deserve this. Twins, for me, is one of those 80’s flicks I never returned to the video store. The concept was funny enough for many repeated viewings. I actually have to thank this film for teaching me the song “yakety yak”, the phrase “money talks and bullshit walks”. It also made me realize that no matter how hard I flex my bicep, I’ll never rip through a sleeve like Arnie did.
I can see it now. Schwarzenegger. DeVito. Murphy. – The muscles. The leftovers. The dick.
Yep… I’m all about seeing this. Ah fuck! I’m back to the realization of how fucking stupid this is. It’s Murphy that’s ruining it for me. Name ONE good Eddie Murphy movie in the past decade (where he isn’t a CGI donkey)?
Oh well, Murphy is supposedly only interested in “edgy” stuff now, so maybe Universal we’ll find some other happy faced black guy.
Anyway, this news has been quiet the emotional rollar coaster.