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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The decline of Tim Burton continues with Dumbo, his remake of the classic animated movie that amounts to a big zero—for kids and adults alike.

The original Dumbo clocked in at just a little more than an hour, while this one lasts for nearly two hours … and it feels like about 40. Yes, the running time has been padded, but not with anything beneficial. A bunch of unnecessary subplots and added characters take away time from the title character, an admittedly cute CGI achievement.

There are no talking animals in this movie, so remove Timothy the mouse, the singing crows, and the lullaby from the mama elephant off your list of expectations. The mouse (who makes a brief appearance, in a cage and wearing a hat) is replaced by the requisite precocious children, one of them played by Thandie Newton’s daughter. Sorry Thandie Newton’s daughter, but you can’t act, and you should either improve or consider another profession that requires you not to act.

Colin Farrell appears as Holt, the precocious children’s dad, back from World War I with one arm; his wife died of the flu while traveling with the circus. The circus is led by Max Medici (a blustery Danny DeVito), who has purchased a cheap, pregnant elephant. He wants Holt to be the keeper of his elephants, a demotion from his previous gig as a circus cowboy. Farrell, like most of the humans in this movie, seems lost.

V.A. Vandevere (played by Michael Keaton) is the villain of the film; he purchases Dumbo and plans to make him a main attraction at his Dreamland, which has a strong resemblance to Disneyland. So, in a way, Vandevere is modeled after Walt Disney, and is portrayed as an evil megalomaniac. Yes, Burton gets away with indirectly portraying Walt Disney as a greedy monster. I’m not saying this is inaccurate, but it’s a little odd to see in an actual Disney movie.

As for Keaton, he’s at his sneering worst in his movie, as if he was just put in front of the camera and told to act persnickety. It’s a shame, because seeing the man who was Batman in a movie by the guy who directed Batman could have been fun. Alas, it is not.

In the original, Dumbo flew in only a couple of scenes, for just a few seconds. Here, he has multiple flying scenes, which lessens the magic of the moments. Regrettably, the scene in the original in which Dumbo gets wasted and sees pink elephants is replaced by a lame bubble show—a dull homage to the original.

As much as I liked the original, I’ve always taken issue with the notion that anybody would give Dumbo a bunch of shit for having big ears. All elephants have big ears, do they not? The premise worked in a one-hour cartoon for kids, but it falls flat in a big-budget movie with real people walking around. The morality lesson at the core just doesn’t ring true. It feels corny.

Burton used to churn out one classic after another. However, his last great movie was 2007’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, and his career was severely tainted by his other Disney live-action reboot, Alice in Wonderland. Dumbo is actually worse than that Alice mess—proof that Burton needs to get far away from the mouse and closer to the weirdos who inspired the first half of his career. Jesus, make another Pee Wee movie before you deface any further Disney properties.

Dumbo is playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews

Holy hell, is this film a boring mess.

In Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Tim Burton directs a leaden Asa Butterfield in an adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ novel. The movie is sloppy, as if the effects weren’t completed. The story is convoluted, as if the filmmakers thought hiring a big-time art director and costuming department were a fair swap for a good script.

The narrative involves some nonsense regarding mutant children in a house in the 1940s that is stuck in a time loop. The house is led by Miss Peregrine (Eva Green, the only good thing about the movie), and visited by young Jake (Butterfield), who heard about the place from his late grandfather (Terence Stamp). The kids all have “peculiarities” but no personality; they are X-Men with no sense of purpose.

Butterfield, a normally reliable young actor, decimates nearly every line he utters in this film. It’s actually quite shocking how inept and lost he seems in this production.

Burton stresses the visuals, as usual, but without a good, strong lead like Johnny Depp or Michael Keaton, Burton is a lost cause. I’m thinking this will hang tough as one of the year’s biggest disappointments.

Samuel L. Jackson does show up with a gray version of his wig from Unbreakable, along with Venom’s teeth. He has his moments, but he can’t save this thing.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is now playing in a variety of formats at theaters across the valley.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Tim Burton’s odd and fun Big Eyes tells the story of Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), the painter behind the “big eyes” portraits of the 1960s, and her loser husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), who took credit for her work.

The story begins with Margaret leaving her first husband and winding up in San Francisco, where she eventually runs into alleged artist Walter. They have a quick courtship and get married; before long, Walter is claiming her work as his own. The two eventually wind up in a legal battle, with Walter defending himself.

The movie oscillates back and forth between serious drama and outrageous comedy. The comedy angle definitely plays out in the courtroom scenes, where Waltz becomes a full-blown clown.

The look of the film has Burton’s characteristic exaggerated colors; the palette reminds at times of his Edward Scissorhands. Adams is mostly fine, but seems a bit lost at times, as if she’s not quite sure how Burton wants to tell the story. Waltz delivers a somewhat crazed performance that makes the film’s tone a bit uneven at times. However, the movie remains enjoyable.

Big Eyes is now playing at the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342) and the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews

Tim Burton directs Frankenweenie, an enjoyable black-and-white stop-motion-animation film about a family dog being resurrected ... FRANKENSTEIN STYLE. (It’s based on a short film Burton did 28 years ago.)

While the story isn’t especially electric, the art direction is superb, and there are enough good laughs to make it worthwhile. Also worth noting: Winona Ryder voices a young-girl character who looks suspiciously like Lydia, her character in Burton’s Beetlejuice.

Other voices include Burton alumni such as Catherine O’Hara and Martin Landau, once again utilizing his Bela Lugosi voice from Ed Wood. A finale sequence involving a giant, Gamera-like turtle and rabid sea monkeys gives the film a nice retro-horror feel.

The year 2012 was fun for stop-motion animation, with this film and ParaNorman. I would have to give a slight edge to ParaNorman, because that one felt so fresh and new. This one has Burton up to his old tricks. Granted, his old tricks are fun tricks, but they are old tricks just the same.

Special Features: There’s a fun look at the Comic-Con exhibit folks were able to visit last year. You also get a behind-the-scenes look at the London production. (I’m always surprised by the size of the sets for these films.) Best of all, you get the original live action short starring Shelley Duvall, Daniel Stern and a very young Sofia Coppola.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing