Tag: Michael Keaton

Dumbo

DumboThe circus has long been a home for stories about the downtrodden and marginalised who find commonality under one canvas roof. Here Director Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands) has put his own spin on the well-worn trope and remade a fresh version of Disney’s beloved animated classic.

That said, there is plenty to recognise Dumbo as a typical circus tale. The main character is a one-armed war-vet-come-circus-hand (an eyebrow-slanting Colin Farrell), who along with his two children care for an impossibly cute baby elephant with unfeasibly large ears.  So large in fact, that Dumbo’s airborne antics (yes, he learns to fly) catch the eye of a rival entrepreneur whose nefarious plans threaten to permanently separate Dumbo from his mother.

Perfectly cast, Dumbo reunites its Director with Batman stalwarts Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice), who plays a deliciously silver-tongued theme-park owner and Danny DeVito (Batman Returns), a spherically shaped ring-master. Also from the Burton alumni is Eva Green (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children), a trapeze artist sympathetic to Dumbo’s cause. It’s a wonderful ensemble cast that look perfectly at home in this lavish production.

But at the film’s heart is the flapping pachyderm himself. Burton effortlessly ushers us across the digital divide and turns a synthetic soul into something real, thanks in part to an effects team who have done a stunning job at creating Dumbo’s complex array of expression. “Find the eyes and you’ll see the soul” as the saying goes and the result here is an enchanting character that bleeds pathos with every blink.

Although anthropomorphised animals mightn’t be everyone’s cup of tea, Burton’s version of Dumbo is ultimately a human story that speaks across generations. Young and old will find tears and laughter here—certainly, this reviewer and three twelve-year-olds in tow seemed to run the gamut of emotions. And despite a few underdeveloped characters and a score that occasionally gushes like a broken mains pipe, Dumbo is a tissue factory worth of sadness dried by a big-top of colourful delights.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

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The Founder

tf_620x310It’s that time of the year where the heavily Oscar baited biopics tend to be released. So, it was with anticipation that I headed into the theatre to see the genre’s first cab off the rank.

Initially excited over reports that the Coen brothers were interested in directing The Founder, I was met with mild disappointment upon hearing that John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), with his rather bland track record, had prevailed. Written by Robert D Siegel (The Wrestler), The Founder is based on the true story of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, and scopes the genesis of the well-known fast food giant.

The film’s title sardonically sums up its central thesis which explores to what extent Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) was indeed the founder of McDonald’s. The story is bookended by Ray’s mantra on “persistence”, whereby he casts aside arguably more noble traits as mere folly in the face of good old fashioned persistence and determination; “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common that unsuccessful individuals with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Blinded by his tunnel visioned notion of persistence, Ray bulldozes his way towards success, casting aside the mild mannered Mac and Dick McDonald who first caught Ray’s eye with their original fast and efficient burger joint. Ray’s neglected wife, Ethel (Laura Dern), gets similar treatment and soon Ray, having collected a savvy bunch of advisers on the way, builds the fast food giant that we all know and have a love/hate relationship with.

On first impressions The Founder plays out a lot like David Fincher’s The Social Network, although its commentary on success and what people will do to obtain it, strikes with far less venom. Instead, it coasts along at a tame pace and the film occasionally risks stalling if not for the energetic performance by Michael Keaton who skilfully walks the tightrope of moral ignorance and myopic determination. Notable also is the cinematography which captures the era well without resorting to gimmickry. Ultimately, The Founder feels like an interesting yet somewhat uninspiring story, told through an entertaining yet somewhat conventional lens … like a tasty meal with little nutritional value.

Rating: 3 out of 5

You can see the published review here