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family film

Dumbo (2019)

DIRECTOR: Tim Burton

CAST: Colin Farrell, Eva Green, Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins

REVIEW:

Dumbo began life as a children’s story published in 1939, written by the husband-and-wife duo of Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl. In 1941, Walt Disney, looking for something that could be slapped together quickly and cheaply to shove out into theaters to help offset mounting costs of his expensive flop Fantasia, bought the rights and the Dumbo animated film debuted in theaters, running a slim 64-minutes. While remembered fondly, it was arguably the most simplistic and juvenile of the Disney animated features of the time, so while this remake (of sorts) is the latest in Disney’s line-up of live-action recreations of its animated classics (following Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella and Bill Condon’s Beauty and the Beast and soon to include Jon Favreau’s The Lion King and Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin), the brevity of the source material required Tim Burton and screenwriter Ehren Kruger to do a lot of padding. The result, as one might expect from a padded-out reimagining of a simplistic and juvenile cartoon, is a middling affair that contains enough special effects and lively sequences to entertain children but whose generic and uninspired narrative has less to offer for their parents. Adults accompanying their children may be sufficiently engaged to not be suffering in silence for their children’s sake (which alone bumps Dumbo up above some other theatrical options for family movie night), but adults attending alone may be less enthralled.

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Peter Rabbit (2018)

DIRECTOR: Will Gluck

CAST: Domhnall Gleeson, Rose Byrne, voices of James Corden, Colin Moody, Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley, Elizabeth Debicki, David Wenham, Sia

REVIEW:

Devoted fans of Beatrix Potter’s gentle children’s stories will likely be appalled at how it’s been souped up with Home Alone-esque action, sometimes crude humor (though nothing that pushes the family friendly envelope very hard), and busy pop soundtrack, but Peter Rabbit keeps the action and comedy flying fast and furious enough that it will probably entertain small children while being at least passably enjoyable for the adults accompanying them.  It’s not the most high-brow family friendly entertainment to be found, but parents on the lookout for something to take their children to that’s not an endurance contest for themselves could do worse. Continue reading

The Lion King (1994)

DIRECTOR: Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff

CAST:

(voices)  James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Matthew Broderick, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Moira Kelly, Nathan Lane, Ernie Sabella, Robert Guillaume, Rowan Atkinson, Whoopi Goldberg, Cheech Marin, Jim Cummings, Madge Sinclair

REVIEW:

It’s no surprise that The Lion King is widely-regarded as the “king” of Disney animated films. While the staples of Disney classics are in place- lighthearted and elaborately animated song-and-dance numbers and comic relief sidekicks- there is a surprisingly somber, at times even tragic underpinning and an epic feel that sets it apart from the likes of Aladdin or 101 Dalmations. In fact, the story was (very loosely) inspired by the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet, and while rewatching it in 2011 with my previous viewing many years in the past, while there are plenty of typical “kids’ movie” segments, there are other aspects, including the Hamlet references (which are more noticeable to adult eyes) that speak more to older viewers. Continue reading

Paradise (1991)

DIRECTOR: Mary Agnes Donoghue

CAST: Don Johnson, Melanie Griffith, Elijah Wood, Thora Birch, Sheila McCarthy, Eve Gordon, Louise Latham

REVIEW:

Paradise is one of those quiet little low-key films that slips through among the summer blockbuster action-adventure flicks and romantic comedies without hardly attracting anyone’s attention.  A thoughtful, deliberately-paced drama, it fell largely under the radar despite featuring popular—at least at the time—stars Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith.  But for those who happen across it, Paradise is not a “great film”, but a nice little story about four people, two adults and two kids, who grow emotionally through their relationships with each other. Continue reading

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