1 1/2 Stars Movies

Dumbo (2019)

Even though it is one of the shortest of Disney’s animated films, the original Dumbo from 1941 is still an ideal choice as a beginner Disney film for children, when we all are still very close to our mothers. The same cannot be said for the remake of Dumbo, which, while I am sure is well-intended, is nothing short of a disappointing failure.

Directed by Tim Burton, we start off the film in Sarasota Florida (not sure why we need to know the exact location) in 1919. A year after many of the circus performers have died due to the influenza outbreak, we see Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), returning from the war (after having lost his arm) to his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins). He is not the best at knowing how to talk to his children like his wife was (she was one of the influenza victims). Despite being with only one arm, he is eager to be back as the circus horse rider, but finds out that his boss Max Medici (Danny Devito, who is pitch perfect) has sold the horses due to money issues. He assigns Holt to taking care of his newest investment, a female elephant named Jumbo, soon to be having a baby.

The first half of the film is basically the story from the original film, as Jumbo Jr. (soon to be called Dumbo) is separated from his mother after a mishap, then later discovers his ears are the perfect set of wings. The second half introduces us to V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), the owner of a more futuristic theme park called Dreamland, along with his somewhat flame and muse Colette (Eva Green), who is set to fly atop Dumbo.

The second half is filled with the visuals we would expect in a Burton film. Yes, some are fun to look at (there is a segment dedicated to the Pink Elephants that I am happy to say was not one of the film’s many down points), but it was the parts of the story that seemed too much for the audience to handle (regardless of age). The second half also provides a cameo from a pop culture figure (whom I have always admired) that makes you want to just shout out “Wait,…WHAT?!”, and not in a good way.

The film does have plenty of nods to the original (though the controversial crows are not present), but (aside from the aforementioned Pink Elephants), very few succeed. The original Dumbo (if you think I have said that word too often, wait till you hear how many times they do in the film) had one of the more tender, heartbreaking moments in Disney history with the song “Baby Mine.” Here, the song seems like it was tacked on with very little thought or heart to it.

Parents, your kids would be fine seeing this, though I would highly encourage they see the far superior original first.

As always, this is a Disney film that has lessons for kids (as well as adults), most notably how our weakness can also be our strength (Psalm 18:28, 2 Corinthians 12:10). The issue (at least for me) is that this was already told nearly eight decades ago in the animated film. Dumbo is the first of three live action remakes to be released in 2019 (the others being Aladdin and The Lion King). While some of the past remakes were at least somewhat enjoyable, I have yet to see a single live action remake of a Disney animated classic that can even be close to comparing to the original. If that does happen, then I be done seen about everything.


Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

5 Stars Movies

Us (2019)

“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.”

-Psalm 27:19

This was the verse that was on my mind as I was watching Us, the new horror film from Jordan Peele (who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for his 2017 debut film, Get Out). We tend to be our own worst enemies at times (something Satan knows and loves to use as mind tricks on us), which is one of the many things that this film gets spot on. While it is no secret that many horror films are bad, the past few years have shown many quality examples (The Babadook, The Witch, IT, Hereditary). Us is one of the best of the decade. Hitchcock would not be proud: He would be envious.

2 Stars Movies

Five Feet Apart (2019)

Ever since Love Story (1970), there have been movies about young love with tragedy. Whether it is The Notebook (2003) or The Fault in our Stars (2014), it is one genre of film that won’t go away anytime soon. While some of these are good films (i.e., the aforementioned ones), others (though filled with some fine lessons to draw from) fall short of the heart strings, such as the more recent Five Feet Apart.

Set mainly in a hospital, we meet teenager Stella (Haley Lu Richardson), who has been living life with Cistic Fibrosis. She is still rather upbeat, despite knowing her survival chances are low. She still keeps a daily routine of countless meds, keeping a video blog (which is rather successful), and being a total socialite with the nurses and other patients, especially her best friend Poe (Moises Arias), who is also homosexual.

3 1/2 Stars Movies

Captain Marvel (2019)

As much as the MCU has impacted film goers (not just fans of comic books), it seems all the more surprising that it took twenty prior films for Marvel to finally feature a female-led superhero movie. Then again, Captain Marvel is no ordinary superhero

One of only two MCU films to take place in the past (the other was Captain America: The First Avenger), Captain Marvel brings us back to the 1990s (more on the time setting later). We meet an alien race called the kree, who are at war with the skrulls, aliens with the power to change into any form of breathing entity they encounter. The two main kree we meet are Vers (Oscar winner Brie Larson) and Yon-Rogg (Jude Law). Rogg is the more experienced warrior, who has taken Vers under his wing (as well as given her the powers she has). The kree are led by the Supreme Intelligence, who always takes a different identity depending on who is talking to it. In the case of Vers, it is a woman from her past she can’t remember (as much of her past has been jumbled up).

Eventually, Vers finds herself taken to Earth, where she begins to get pieces of her past back in place and must now find the woman she sees when she encounters the Supreme Intelligence (the woman, played by the always wondrous Annette Bening). Along the way, she meets a young Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), in his rookie years of S.H.I.E.L.D. There are others in the film from previous MCU films, such as Ronan (Lee Pace), Korath (Djimon Hounsou), and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), not to mention one of the main Skrulls, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn, who also doubles as Fury’s boss Keller). In short, the film is another example of how the casting of MCU characters have always (with a possible few exceptions) been spot on, and Brie Larson is clearly no exception. Watching her reminded me of RDJ’s Iron Man, but a little more toned down. She makes quips, can crack one liners, but is not as hard shelled as Tony Stark. She is able to be more vulnerable as she tries to find out who she really is and where she belongs

While the villain is not the best in the MCU (at least when compared to Killmonger, Loki, or Thanos), the one that Captain Marvel has to fight is really her inner self (which, when you think of it, is what all heroes have to do). Remembering that we are human is a scary thing, and can always be seen as a weakness (not just in a fantasy world).

The film reminds us that, as Christians, Satan thrives at playing mind games. He deceives and misleads. Reminding us of our past failures is something he does with glee, and no one is immune to it. Living into our true identity in Christ leads to human flourishing (Colossians 2:9-10).

Parents, the film is (like every MCU film) rated PG-13, but is a rather soft one at that. There are bad words, some action and violence, but nothing they have not seen in the MCU before (and far less dark than the events of Infinity War). If your kids have seen at least one of the prior MCU films, they are fine.

Is Captain Marvel the best MCU film? No. Is it a solid outing? Yes. It is also rather funny, especially if you are like me and grew up in the 1990s (“What is it doing?” “It’s loading”), but the directors (and screenwriters) Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck don’t rely just on nostalgia. Like the titular character, we leave the theater with the feeling that being human is not something to frown at.

That, and having a pet cat may not be as bad as I thought.


Rating: 3.5 out of 5.