The World According to Renee

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Review: Dumbo (2019)

Dumbo 2019

I had high hopes and low expectations for the new version of Dumbo. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of remakes/reimagining/reboots and I can take or leave Tim Burton.

The trailer looked dark, with a haunting rendition of Baby Mine, which is one of the most iconic scenes in the 1941 animated version. So, I wasn’t really expecting too much from the “live action” film. And by “live action”, I mean mostly CGI. (What?!? They didn’t train a baby elephant to fly???).

We begin our story with Mrs Jumbo in a dilapidated circus. There are definite throwbacks to the animated film, many symbolic of the story’s original telling. For example, in the 1942 classic, a stork brings baby Dumbo to Mrs Jumbo. In 2019, the audience is smart enough to know that babies don’t come from storks so a stork symbolically lands on the elephant carriage and bingo, baby Dumbo is discovered the next morning. The biggest omission from the animated film is Timothy Q. Mouse, Dumbo’s friend and mentor. Timothy’s role is mostly taken by two human children, Milly and Joe. Let me digress for a moment: Milly is a girl interested in science and wants to use science to not only make the world better, but show everyone else what science can do. It’s girl power at its very finest.

Around a third of the way through the film, we change direction. If you recall, the original Dumbo ran for just over an hour. Something is needed to update the story and stretch it out to double that time. Enter Michael Keaton as a villain. He wants to buy Dumbo and the circus troupe and take them all to his mega theme park as his new star attraction. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money, however (naturally) everything goes wrong. As far as villains go, V. A. Vandermere is pretty soft. But that’s OK, we’re not here to see villainy. Give us the flying elephant!

There are several key scenes in 1941’s Dumbo that would not translate well to a modern audience. In the very beginning of the film, African American slaves are hoisting the circus tent and the song they sing is rather racist. The black crows at the end of the film are also considered racist, so to add them into a 2019 film is just plain unacceptable. Nineteen forty one Dumbo may be a reflection of the time, but it is most certainly not now. Another questionable scene is Dumbo getting drunk and visualising the pink elephants on parade. Now, this colourful scene is one of my favourites, but obviously you can’t go around glorifying drunkenness. Tim Burton gets around this by having dancers create the pink elephant shapes with (CGI) bubbles. It’s beautiful, if not as memorable as the original scene.

Ultimately, this story focuses on human characters rather than Dumbo’s story as seen through the eyes of Timothy Mouse. Personally, I think this makes the film lacking in emotional punch as Dumbo takes his first flight and ultimately realises he doesn’t need the feather to fly. The interspersed story with his mother kind of lacks the feel-good ending of the original; in this one we know the two elephants end up reunited whereas in the original, it was a lovely surprise to see them at the end of the circus train together.

There are the usual Disney tropes of parental separation; the children’s mother died in the flu epidemic of 1918, their father has just returned from war, and obviously Dumbo and Mrs Jumbo being separated. Does any of this add to the story? Dumbo and Mrs Jumbo: absolutely. Without them, there is no story. The Farrier family? I’m gonna say no, although it is a cute parallel to Dumbo’s experience and helps the kids realise he needs his mother just as they need theirs. Aww.

7 out of 10 popcorns.


April 2, 2019 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moana: A Review

Disney non-princesses sure have come a long way. No longer do Disney heroines need Princes to kiss them, they just need an animal sidekick, a loving mentor and a dude who can help kick some butt along the way (but she does most of the work).

Enter Moana, a tale of mortal heroine defeating gods to restore life to her dying world. Moana herself is Disney’s first Polynesian heroine, based on Polynesian legends and culture. The daughter of a Chief, she’s poised to take over official duties but cannot ignore the call of the ocean as she’s drawn to find the demigod Maui and convince him to return the Heart to goddess Te Fiti in order to save her island (and the world).

Moana is everything modern audiences would want from a Disney film. Visually, it’s stunning, although I thought the people looked very plastic-y. Everything from the crystal clear waters to the fierce gods is beautifully animated and I read that Maui’s tattoos were hand-drawn. There’s a ton of Easter eggs and other film references hidden in the film so keep an eye out for those.

The story is based on Polynesian legend. I’m not usually one for stories of gods vs humans, but I was able to overlook it just this once. Moana and Maui meet some interesting characters along the way, including the materialistic Tamatoa. He is voiced by Flight of the Conchords‘ Jemaine Clement with a David Bowie-esque song (which I am still humming).

This brings me to the music. Wow! I was flabbergasted at the lyrical atrocities committed by the frighteningly awful Frozen (I know- just shoot me) but Moana redeems my faith in Disney musicals. Not only are they lyrically on-track, but the music itself is toe tapping happiness. I came home and downloaded the soundtrack immediately; I know it’s gonna be on repeat in my car forever.

Moana is awesome. I can’t write enough good things about this film. It’s amazing. As the cliche goes, if you only see one Disney film this year, make it Moana.

Nine out of ten popcorns.

January 9, 2017 Posted by | Reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Big Hero 6

Ladies and gentlemen, I have an announcement to make: I have a new favourite Disney movie (sorry Wreck-It Ralph). I’m not a fan of superheroes but this movie sucked me in and didn’t let go til the credits. Thank the gods that Disney have redeemed themselves after the atrocity that was Frozen

In Big Hero 6, we meet fourteen year old Hiro and his brother, who are super smart and into robotics. In fact, Tadashi has built a robot to assist in medical needs of humans: a big, squishy robot named Baymax. Cue adventures.

This movie has everything: sciencey words, robots, villains, explosions and a fantastic song by Fall Out Boy which I haven’t stopped singing since its release in November. Visually, the film is beyond expectations. Animation has really come a long way in the past fifteen years, especially when animating humans. The fictional world of San Fransokyo has both the iconic landscape of San Francisco and Tokyo; who’d have thought cherry blossoms would prettify a concrete jungle? As usual, there are hidden gems in the film, such as when Baymax breaks a statue of some dude from Frozen (personally, I like to think this is because Disney realise they offered a piece of shit for their last venture, albeit a very successful piece of shit).

I felt the story kinda escaped from them in a couple of places, but it was brought back quickly and coherently. I’m not sure whether the portals were deliberately styled as Stargates, but they certainly appeared that way. It’s neither good nor bad, just an observation.

Also an observation is the parental separation. It’s a common theme in Disney films, which apparently stems from Walt Disney’s guilt over his mother’s death. He bought her a house, which subsequently burned down and his mother died. Walt felt immensely guilty over this and some say this resulted in Disney films having a running theme of maternal death within the films. Hiro and Tadashi have been raised by their aunt with no mention of what happened to their parents (or maybe there is and I missed it). In the ~fifty years since Disney’s death, parental death is still a running theme, although I concede in this case it may actually have been part of the original source material.

Not being up on my Marvel comics, I can’t comment on whether this is true to the original source or not, but there’s plenty of other nerds on the internet to tell you that kind of thing. For me, who doesn’t normally like superhero stuff, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

9.5/10 popcorns.

January 25, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Saving Mr Banks: A Review

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of Disney movies. Thank God for Walt Disney, whose creations are still loved and enjoyed the world over, and whose legacy will never die.

Saving Mr Banks tells the story of Walt Disney’s fight with author P.L. Travers to turn her books into a film. That film, of course, is Mary Poppins, which is an iconic film, still beloved by children and adults.

The problem is, I’m not entirely sure this story needs to be told. Pamela Travers, author of the Mary Poppins books, was an infinitely interesting person. She was bisexual, and by all accounts, a professional curmudgeon. Emma Thompson, who plays Mrs Travers in Saving Mr Banks, said in interview that Travers was the most complex person she’s ever had to play. However, in this film, Travers is portrayed as nothing more than a royal bitch who doesn’t want anyone to tamper with the story she’s created. Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) eventually gets to the bottom of the problem and empathises with Travers, resulting in what we all know was going to happen anyway: Travers signing over the rights to the story for use in film.

Betwixt the endearing battles of Disney and Travers lies Travers’ backstory: a highly imaginative but alcoholic father whom Travers adored. The best part about these flashbacks is Colin Farrell, who stretches his artistic wings and plays a character far more complex than first meets the eye. Rachel Griffiths is the “real” Mary Poppins, who promises to save the family. Disappointingly, Rachel’s nanny is relegated to cameo status with no real story there at all. I suppose if the story had switched to her, the film wouldn’t be called Saving Mr Banks

The film runs at two hours, ten minutes. It’s far too long and missing the traditional Disney magic. It does, however, contain plenty of other Disney traits such as cheesiness and “everything is happy” moments. The principal actors are fantastic and cannot be faulted (except perhaps for Tom Hanks’ Southern accent), but with very little actual plot to work with, this really just seems an excuse to pump out an adult Disney movie while the kids are in another theatre watching Frozen.

Bringing a classic children’s book to the screen may have been interesting to those involved, but it really didn’t deserve to have its own movie. I await the film franchise showing J.K. Rowling’s issues getting Harry Potter to the screen.

6/10 popcorns


December 30, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Wreck-It Ralph

This review contains spoilers. Read on at your own risk.

Poor Ralph. He’s a big guy whose job is to wreck buildings so Fix-It Felix can rebuild it and win all the praise (along with a medal). Ralph feels that after 30 years, he’d like to be a good guy so he heads off to another game in order to win his own medal and gain sought-after praise from his own game-mates.

Firstly, let me say that this film is really well done. The gaming world of the characters is flawless. There are so many references to real-life games and products (I’m not sure if this is marketing or just for fun) that the film seems like it really is taking place when the arcade closes. The shaky movements of some characters are a bit startling but that’s just how they move within the game. Why Ralph & co move smoothly and others don’t, I don’t know. I also read that Ralph was supposed to be animated in 8 bit but that would take away his loveability. Fair enough call, plus it would be very difficult to watch 8 bit characters on screen for any length of time. Fix-It Felix’s house is decorated in 8 bit though, which is a nice touch.

Secondly, I absolutely LOVE that one character, King Candy, is visually and audibly based on Ed Wynn. Ed Wynn represents classic Disney and makes a very welcome “return”. I was surprised to learn King Candy is voiced by Alan Tudyk, whom I know best from Firefly. What I didn’t love is that he served as the evil character. I understand the plot point, but Ed’s characters were always funny, lovable and inherently good. Crazy and madcap, but good.

The story was also very good. After the first half hour or so, I was wondering where else it could go… and it went in a different direction. This is a Good Thing because films shouldn’t be predictable (unless based on a true story, in which case, the ending is usually fairly obvious from the start). I loved the references to Super Mario Kart, because that’s the only video game I was ever really good at. The writers are clearly gamers and it shows with the level of detail in the gaming scenes.

The film is directed by Rich Moore, whom I know from his work on The Simpsons. A supervising director on this film was Jim Reardon, also known for his work on The Simpsons. Pleasantly surprised by this addition to their body of work.

Overall, this is a really good film. Some of the technical things about coding were a bit confusing; I wonder how much of that sort of thing kids really know about these days? Wreck-It Ralph has become a new favourite.

9 out of 10 popcorns.


March 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment