Mr. Movie

Mr. Movie: ‘Dumbo’, the live redo is a dud

Dumbo (Official Trailer)

A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.
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A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.


The live version of “Dumbo” has changes. Instead of a cute mouse helping the poor pachyderm, the film’s heroes are two darling but misunderstood, and not-much-listened-to kids, their one-armed dad and the lovely lady on the flying trapeze.

Big-eared Dumbo can still fly. However, in director Tim Burton’s version, Dumbo catches the eye of a self-absorbed, P.T. Barnum-like promoter. With an offer circus owner, Max Medici cannot refuse, elephant and all go to the big city, the big time and big-time troubles.

“Dumbo” is Burton’s second live remake of a Walt Disney classic. His first — “Alice in Wonderland” — had very few shining moments. The 2010 film had effects that blew us away but little else. “Dumbo” doesn’t even have decent effects.

Even punctuated with the must-have Disney happy ending, Burton can’t make “Dumbo” fly. The problems start — and mostly end — with Burton’s movie lacking a sense of humor or anything approaching fun. You’ll find the blue-eyed Dumbo cute but fakey. Burton also packs his film with tacky sets that look more like Fisher-Price toys than the real deal. Just as plastic are the human characters done by Colin Ferrel, Michael Keaton, Eva Green, kid stars Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, and the always wonderful to see, Danny DeVito.

That “Dumbo” is dumb with an “o” attached is not a surprise. Disney’s live redo of some of its classic animated features hasn’t exactly set the movie world on fire. It started with the terrible “The Jungle Book” in 1994. The 2016 version of “The Jungle Book” was technically better than ’94 but still fell short of the fun of the animated movie.

The awful “101 Dalmatians” followed, then came the so-so “Cinderella” and the just-okay “Maleficent.” Other than the awesome “Beauty and the Beast,” the whole process has been hit and miss.

Mostly miss.

Plus, as this one does, the live remakes automatically invite comparisons to the originals. Burton’s tale — written by horror-meister Ehren Kruger (“Ghost in the Shell,” “The Ring” and the last three Transformer movies) — is very dark, and unnecessarily heavy. Other than the circus, Dumbo and Mrs. Jumbo, not much of this one looks like what Disney did in 1941.

As you can tell, I’m not a fan of these redos. Coming soon? “The Lion King” and “Aladdin.” To quote Lion King Simba’s Uncle Scar from the 1994 animated film, “Oh, goodie.”

▪ Rated PG for mature themes. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 2 of 5

Film-Hotel Mumbai
This image released by Bleecker Street shows Dev Patel in a scene from "Hotel Mumbai." Mark Rogers Associated Press

‘Hotel Mumbai’

On November 6, 2008, Islamic terrorists went to Mumbai, India, and over three-days killed 167 people. The main focus of their attack was the historic structure, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel.

“Hotel Mumbai” is the story of that attack.

Director Anthony Maras’ first full length motion picture is a bit sanitized. We know it’s true. We know it’s bloody and that a lot of innocent people died. The film is hard enough to be shocking but in places it plays like a very ordinary action flick. What Maras does a brilliant job of doing is contrasting all that opulence with the ugliness of the senseless deaths brought about by the terrorists.

Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) heads a cast that includes Armie Hammer (“On the Basis of Sex”), Jason Isaacs, Anupam Kher (“The Big Sick,” “Silver Linings Playbook”), Nazanin Boniadi and Tilda Cobham-Hervey.

Some star power is important to draw an audience. And Patel and his B-list co-stars are all very good. However, this is one of those films that having unknowns playing key roles gives the incident more of a feeling of being real. The truth of that statement comes from the best performances being done by actors you’ve never seen before.

▪ Rated R for violence and language. It’s playing at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12.

▪ Rating: 3 1/2 of 5

Film-Gloria Bell
This image released by A24 shows John Torturro and Julianne Moore in a scene from "Gloria Bell." Everyone is vanishing around Julianne Moore's title character in Sebastian Lelio's "Gloria Bell." The disappearances don't come with blood-curdling shrieks or thundering score cues, but with the humdrum ebb of middle age. People just move away or recede from view. Hilary Bronwyn Gayle Associated Press

‘Gloria Bell’

“Gloria Bell” is based on writer/director Sebastian Lelio’s 2013 Chilean original. Julianne Moore stars as the film’s main character. Gloria is a 50-something lady with a boring day job. Nights are spent dancing at a club that plays 1970s and 1980s disco music. Gloria is divorced and not really looking but not not looking either. One night she connects with John Turturro’s Arnold. He’s a sweet guy. They have some things in common.

Sex follows.

Then a relationship. After that comes complications. He’s practically a prisoner of his helpless ex-wife and two helpless daughters. Plus, Arnold seems to be fairly jealous of Gloria’s free spirit and her relationship with her family and ex-husband.

Julianne Moore is one of her generation’s best actresses. She’s done a bunch of five-star rating movies and — even when the movie isn’t all that good — Moore always manages to make things interesting.

In other words, she makes every movie she’s in better, and in the case of “Gloria Bell,” a lot, lot better. Or to put it another way, “Gloria Bell” isn’t a very good movie but Moore at least manages to make it interesting.

Okay, maybe not all that interesting.

Other than Moore’s performance, what does work — and makes this dreadful movie worth sitting through — is a climax that will have you howling.

▪ Rated R for mature themes, language and nudity. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Queensgate 12 and at Walla Walla grand Cinemas.

▪ Rating: 2 1/2 of 5

Film-the Highwaymen
This image released by Netflix shows Woody Harrelson, left, and Kevin Costner in a scene from "The Highwaymen." Hilary B Gayle Associated Press

‘The Highwaymen’

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow captured the imagination of the United States during the early 1930s. They robbed small businesses and banks, murdered people and also terrorized Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and large swaths of the country’s mid-section. In 1934, Frank Hamer, a former Texas Ranger, was hired to hunt them down. After over 100 days covering 15 states Hamer found them. His posse filled the two outlaws with enough bullets to kill several dozen people.

“The Highwaymen” is Hamer’s story.

Kevin Costner stars as Hamer and Woody Harrelson as his hunting partner, Maney Gault. How much Maney actually had to do with Hamer’s search is open to conjecture. Director John Lee Hancock (“Saving Mr. Banks,” “The Blind Side”) and writer John Fusco (“The Shack,” “Young Guns”) say he did, so he did.

With excellent locations, authentic automobiles and costuming, Hancock’s film looks enough like the depression-era U.S. to believe. I also love that — like Hamer and Gault — you never see the faces of Bonnie and Clyde until the end.

Where Hancock and Fusco fall short is in the dialogue department. Coster has never been all that energetic. So his dull-as-dirt delivery is perfect for the single-minded Hamer. Harrelson — on the other hand — is a natural comedian. He does his best to deliver most of his lines in a straight manner. However, there are times when you swear he’s about ready to bust a gut and tell you an off-color joke.

It might have helped the movie.

▪ Rated R for violence and language. It’s streaming on Netflix.

▪ Rating: 3 of 5