I FOUND SOMEONE I COULD RELATE to and it was an elephant. Don’t laugh; this little elephant was a character I not only could sympathize with but identify with because of what he was going through in his young life. It was on a Saturday and I remember we took the train down into the city. A theater there was doing a weekend showing of the animated movie Dumbo. As we walked around the corner and I saw the movie theater, I got upset because of all the people lined up trying to get into the theater. I thought for sure all the tickets would be sold before we got up to the box office. By downtown standards this theater was one of the smaller ones which was part of the reason for my fears. All I knew about this little elephant was its ability to fly and I desperately wanted to see it for myself. Flying was something I dreamt about and was hoping I could learn something from Dumbo. As you can see at a young age I was already heavy into fantasy, looking to create a different reality around me. I could not stop fidgeting as we slowly made our way up to the box office. WITH TICKETS IN HAND WE FOUND seats in the theater; I could not have been more excited. When Dumbo was being made fun of, I felt his pain. I was overweight and endured similar name calling. If I could I would have jumped into the screen to defend Dumbo and let him know he was not alone. I was visibly upset as I sat in my seat. And then suddenly, my sadness and pain disappeared in a puff of air, that I felt from Dumbo’s large ears when they flapped to give him flight for the first time. Seeing that little elephant rise up into the air was pure magic for me. I was told I had big ears, so I wondered if it was at all possible I could teach myself to use my ears along with my flapping arms to allow me to lift off the ground. There in that movie theater I had found someone like me; I wanted to do everything Dumbo could do. If I was ever afraid or uncomfortable I could simply fly away from the situation, soar above any of the pain or name calling I was experiencing. After all these years, I now have the opportunity to see my flying friend once again in this live action, fantasy film. WHEN CIRCUS OWNER MAX MEDICI, PLAYED by Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia-TV), bought a pregnant elephant; he never imagined the birth of a baby elephant could change his life so drastically. This family movie also starred Colin Farrell (The Beguiled, The Lobster) as Holt Farrier, Michael Keaton (American Assassin, The Founder) as V.A. Vandevere, Eva Green (Based on a True Story, Penny Dreadful-TV) as Colette Marchant and Alan Arkin (Argo, Going in Style) as J. Griffin Remington. While watching this picture I had a visceral reaction to what was being shown on the movie screen. Except for the variety of fanciful visuals, I thought this movie was an abomination. How did the movie studio okay a story that was dark and so not kid friendly? I was completely shocked by the script and found absolutely nothing fun or joyful in this picture. There were little glimpses of a possible pleasurable scene but for the most part the script and over the top soundtrack drowned any hope of enjoyment. Days later I still was confused how this film got made of such a classic iconic character from animated history. Unless you want to punish your child or yourself, there is no reason to go see this poor version of the classic tale.
1 ½ stars
ONCE you typecast a person you essentially are telling them they cannot evolve. Look at the examples we have seen in the celebrity world. Child performers can have a solid career playing a limited range of roles that suit their current personas; however, when they reach puberty and start exerting their independence a majority of viewers/followers turn on them. There are 2 musical artists I can think of immediately who acted out outrageously to break the mold they were boxed into by fans’ perceptions. I can understand how some of us do not want to see our celebrities grow up; but it is a natural part of life. Heck I get it since I still think of myself as a younger version of who I used to be. Asking my friends and family I am sure they will say I certainly do not act my age; however here is a question for you, who decided how we are supposed to act based on our birth age? My philosophy has always been, “young at heart, young in mind.” WHEN I first started out teaching fitness I soon saw signs that I was being typecast in a certain way. From some of the remarks I would get to comments I said in class I realized members assumed I only studied PE courses and was teaching full time. The first time I told someone my educational background I remember how stunned they were that I had studied in the fields of animal science and photography. Even to this day it is not unusual for someone in my yoga class to be surprised when they hear I am a credit manager. The majority of the time the first response to me is, “You are so nice; how are you a credit manager?” I guess there is a stereotype associated with being a credit manager. Speaking of stereotypes and typecasting I am concerned the main actor in this comedy is trying to break the typecast of him being a great actor. HAVING been a famous former TV star Jackie Burke, played by Robert De Niro (Dirty Grandpa, Casino) had a hard time convincing the public he was something more than just his television character. No matter how outrageous he would get his fans wanted the old TV character. This film festival winner had an amazing cast that included Leslie Mann (The Other Woman, Knocked Up) as Harmony Schiltz, Harvey Keitel (The Piano, Reservoir Dogs) as Mac Schiltz, Danny DeVito (When in Rome, L.A. Confidential) as Jimmy Berkowitz and Patti LuPone (Parker, Driving Miss Daisy) as Florence Berkowitz. The story may not have been anything special; but with such a cast, if the script had been a whole lot better then maybe this would have been a decent movie. As it turned out this picture was bad. Put aside the foul language, there was so little that seemed realistic that I was bored through most of the film besides being embarrassed for all the actors. Nothing got developed story wise, the script was a series of skits in my opinion. It would not be fair for me to say but with Robert’s recent film choices he is in a downward spiral. Having seen this and his film Dirty Grandpa makes me think he wants to break some mold he feels he has been placed in.
1 ½ stars
A storyteller takes something ordinary and makes it interesting. With an added twist of words the mundane can be transformed into an extraordinary tale. Before I even began my schooling, I was exposed to a master storyteller–my father. Out of the entire family, my dad was the person who provided tall tales and comic relief for everyone. Anyone who was within ear shot would be drawn into my father’s fabrications. As a salesman, he covered the entire city and always found fodder for his next anecodote. The story of my dad stopping by to surprise my mother and me at the grocery store was completely transformed when he retold it. He would say he went into the store and found me crying at the service desk, separated from my mother. When the service manager asked him who he was, my dad said he was my father. The manager turned and asked me if that was my dad and all I could cry for was my mother, never acknowledging my father. It was these tall tales I grew up with and why this touching movie resonated with me. Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich, Annie) was the colorful character Ed Bloom. After being diagnosed with cancer; his estranged son Will, played by Billy Crudup (Almost Famous, Watchmen), returned home to reconcile with his dad and find out the truth behind the wild stories he had heard growing up. Told in flashbacks the younger Ed Bloom was portrayed by Ewan McGregor (The Impossible, Beginners). Director Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Planet of the Apes) surprised me with this touching, imaginative story. The entire cast blended together so well, that I had no trouble going from fanciful stories to current reality. Jessica Lange was wonderful as she played Ed’s grounded wife Sandra. It was fun to see a younger Steve Buscemi (Fargo, Reservoir Dogs), Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, Twins), Marion Cotillard (Inception, Contagion) and Helena Bonham Carter (Les Miserables, Harry Potter franchise) make up part of the ensemble. This charming movie is being turned into a Broadway play. I believe it will easily transfer to the big stage and do quite well for this simple reason: if you cannot exaggerate the story, then it just isn’t worth telling.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
As soon as this movie was over, I had to come straight home and give my plants an extra dose of plant food and water. Not only was this movie fun, but it conveyed a message to all of us about conservation. There were two parallel stories for this movie. One was about twelve year old Ted in search of something he never knew existed–a land filled with real live trees. His motivation in the beginning was to impress the girl who told him of these fabled plants. The other story was about the Lorax, a creature who fights to protect his world, a land filled with real trees. It was a little confusing for me as they jumped from one story to the other. I was more interested in the Lorax story and felt Danny DeVito’s (Batman Returns, Solitary Man) voice was perfect for the sweet, grumpy creature. Overall, I really enjoyed watching this film, being transported to the wonderful world of Dr. Seuss. Also, a couple of the songs could be next year’s Oscar nominees. It was a treat to see the characters, I used to read about, come to life on the big screen in a palette of candy colors.