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Reel Time

Dumbo

World War I has just ended. Holt (Colin Farrell) has returned to his job at the circus after losing his left arm in battle. While he was away, his wife died. Since then, his daughter, Milly (Nico Parker), and son, Joe (Finley Hobbins), have been staying with kind circus performers. It is a sad and awkward homecoming for Holt, but things are about to get exciting.

Max (Danny DeVito), who owns the circus, recently bought Jumbo, a pregnant Indian elephant. When the baby elephant is born, everyone is shocked because he has huge ears. Max’s hopes for using the baby elephant as a crowd attraction are dashed because he sees the ears as a deformity.

Milly and Joe are curious and approach the baby elephant. When he inhales a feather through his trunk, he puffs up and sneezes so hard that his ears flop and he rises off the ground. When the children try to tell their dad, he doesn’t listen.

The children persist and Max agrees to let the baby animal perform, but things don’t turn out well. Some kids heckle him, and he flies around and out of the tent, scaring everyone.

V.A. (Michael Keaton) is an unscrupulous impresario on the lookout for a great act for his permanent circus, a precursor of a modern theme park. He talks Max into selling him the circus, and he hires all the performers. Colette (Eva Green) is a trapeze artist who trains the flying elephant, now called Dumbo, and together they amaze the crowds. But when V.A.’s financial backer, Remington (Alan Arkin), comes to check his investment, Dumbo hears the sound of his mother calling and flies off in search of her.

This reimagining of Disney’s 1941 animated classic is directed by Tim Burton and written by Ehren Kruger. This live-action version with CGI animals is told from the humans’ point of view: There are no talking animals here.

However, fans of the original will see all kinds of visual references to it. The lullaby “Baby Mine” adds to the emotional pitch of a film that begins with loss, isolation, and suffering. The film looks at how family is healed, differences are celebrated, and bullies—young and old—learn important lessons.

I found Burton’s chosen saturated color palette too dark for the story. However, in itself, this is a reference to the original. This is an uncomplicated story with entertaining action sequences, despite moments of peril for animals and humans. In the end, benevolence wins. DeVito and Keaton (in a very bad wig) are especially humorous. And Green, who trained with acrobats for two months, gives an impressive, high-flying performance.

Not yet rated, PG • Greed, bullying, and peril.


Five Feet Apart movie

Five Feet Apart

Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) is a 17-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis (CF), a genetic disorder that affects various organs, especially the lungs. CF causes the body to overproduce mucus, which becomes a trap for germs and serious infections. Stella is embarking on a new experimental treatment, and she goes about her life as normally as she can while living in a hospital. She is longtime pals with Poe (Moises Arias), who also has CF. He can be annoying, but they have learned to be friends without coming any closer than five or six feet. CF sufferers must maintain boundaries because they can cross-infect one another. This can lead to life-threatening developments.

Will (Cole Sprouse), a new patient, joins the trial. Although Will is depressed and resists medical treatment, Stella is attracted to him. She flirts with him, always maintaining the distance between them. They talk about their disease and Stella’s hopes for a lung transplant. As they grow closer emotionally, they begin to wonder if they can ever have a future together.

Director Justin Baldoni and writers Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis concentrate on how emotional and spiritual intimacy is possible when touch is impossible in a world of chronic illness. This romantic drama is empathetic without being sappy. It is reminiscent of 2014’s The Fault in Our Stars but asks much more from the characters and the audience in terms of thinking about self-denial and love in a new way.

A-3, PG-13 • Mature themes.


Diane movieDiane

It is winter, and Diane (Mary Kay Place) is busy serving meals to the homeless, making sure her sick friends are OK and dealing with her deadbeat, drug-addicted son, Brian (Jake Lacy), who won’t do anything to help himself. Diane and her friends, who get together regularly, realize that death isn’t that far away given their age.

Diane carries the responsibility for her community and for Brian, who suddenly sees the light and gets religion. Diane is not impressed as he and his girlfriend try to convert her. She slows down, deals with regrets, but, true to form, makes plans for Easter because she’s always considering others.

Diane, written and directed by Kent Jones, is a contemplative film about a woman who is ready for the end of the long Lent of her life and the beginning of a springtime of resurrection. Place gives a moving performance in this low-budget slice of life.

Not yet rated • Drug references.


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