“DUMBO” TAKES FLIGHT WITH WHIMSY; “THE FIX” ON TV
A Film and TV Review by Tim Riley
DUMBO (Rated PG) The story of a young elephant facing ridicule and ostracism because of his oversized ears originated in a 1930’s book that Walt Disney purchased the rights to create the successful, well-received 1941 animation film “Dumbo.” With director Tim Burton’s cinematic vision, “Dumbo” the live-action film follows the premise of the original book and animated version but veers off in tangents, allowing the filmmaker to take artistic license with the source material.
Admittedly, Burton, steeped in the fantasy genre, is known for his dark, eccentric and gothic style (think “Beetlejuice” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”), which would cause anyone to wonder how he would approach one of the iconic characters of the Disney canon. Mostly for better, the director comes up with a decent family film in which he has muted his unconventional and often disturbing tendencies to instead touch our hearts with the sadness of little Dumbo’s unfortunately odd condition.
The struggling Medici Brothers Circus consists of an itinerant band of misfits, grifters and wild animals setting up camp in cities across America in the era following the end of World War I, when a traveling circus would draw crowds. The ringmaster and owner of the circus, Max Medici (Danny DeVito), shifty and delightfully seedy in appearance, is the perfect embodiment of the scheming con artist seeking to take advantage of everyone in his path.
Returning from the war having lost one arm is former circus star and horse rider Holt Farrier (Colin Ferrell), whose two young children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), have been with the circus while their father was serving his country. The only circus job now available to the recently widowed Holt, unable to do his roping tricks on horseback, is taking care of the elephant Jumbo soon expected to give birth. Jumbo’s delivery turns out to be the freakish Dumbo, whose appearance is such a disappointment to Max that he sells the mother to raise money to keep the circus afloat. Milly and Joe, appalled at the mistreatment of the pachyderms by some of the animal trainers, take special care of Dumbo and soon discover that by flapping his big ears he is able to take flight.
Learning of this miracle, Max turns the baby elephant into the star attraction under the big top. News of Dumbo’s incredible feat draws the attention of entrepreneur V.A. Vandervere (Michael Keaton), who offers a contract to Max Medici. The opportunistic Vandervere wants to cash in on the Dumbo craze by making him the star of his New York amusement utopia, Dreamland, by pairing him with stunning trapeze artist Colette (Eva Green). The amusement park mogul has no feelings for Dumbo other than to exploit him for profit. That Vandervere operates with unsavory motives is quickly noticed by Milly and Joe, who seek to reunite Dumbo with his mother.
The bond between Holt’s children and Dumbo is what drives the story to a satisfying emotional conclusion after all the heartache and sadness is dissipated in the usual Disney fashion. Tim Burton’s whimsical touch mitigates his darker impulses such that “Dumbo” results in family-friendly entertainment. The production design is so good that adults should marvel at the quality.
“THE FIX” ON ABC NETWORK
How deep is the public appetite to revisit the trial of the last century when former football star turned actor O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the brutal double murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and friend Ron Goldman? The answer to that question may come from ABC’s new series “The Fix,” a legal drama produced by Marcia Clark, a former lead prosecutor in the Los Angeles trial of Simpson that seemed like a slum dunk until it wasn’t.
With eerie parallels to the real-life drama that happened more than two decades ago, “The Fix” now offers redemption for Los Angeles district attorney Maya Travis (Robin Tunney) who suffered devastating defeat when prosecuting an A-list actor for double murder. That Marcia Clark may view “The Fix” as an opportunity to heal old wounds came into play during the winter press tour when she observed that star power brought into the courtroom “does skew the way the jury views the evidence.”
Clark’s alter-ego Maya Travis, once her career was derailed, left for a quieter life on a Washington state ranch, but eight years later returns when the same celebrity comes under suspicion for another murder. Adding to the racial component of the real-life trial, the celebrity suspect is African-American movie star Sevvy Johnson (Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje), now under suspicion for the death of his young white girlfriend. Subplots abound as Maya tries to repair hard feelings left behind at the District Attorney’s office. Jealousy comes into play when another prosecutor, a woman of color, feels slighted for giving up the lead role in the Johnson case to Maya. In a nice turn, Johnson’s attorney Ezra Wolf (Scott Cohen) is sleazy (owing to gambling losses). There’s a lot happening in “The Fix” but is it really enough to merit anyone’s ongoing attention?