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Operation Dumbo Drop

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Operation Dumbo Drop

Starring: Danny Glover, Ray Liotta
Director: Simon Wincer
Rated: PG
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: July 1995
Genres: Action, Family, Kids, Comedy

*Also starring: Denis Leary, Doug E. Doug, Corin Nemac, Dinh Thien Le, Tcheky Karyo, Hoang Ly, Vo Trung Anh, Marshall Bell

Review by Steve Rhodes
1 star out of 4

OPERATION DUMBO DROP is "5 tons of Disney fun," at least according to the ads. It is a doubly strange movie "inspired by a true story." First, the tale itself is quite bizarre involving procuring an elephant during a war and moving it by all possible means including by parachute. Second, it is strange for anyone, but especially for Disney, to turn a Vietnam war story into kids fare. I would have never thought of a movie containing VCs lobbing mortars at an innocent elephant as being a movie suitable for kids. Nevertheless, the trailers got my son excited to see it, and I am willing to try anything except slasher movies so off we went.

Green Beret officer Jim Morris (Ray Liotta) and an Army Captain played by Danny Glover manage to get the only elephant in a Vietnamese village shot by the VC in retaliation for the village having helped the Americans. Since the Americans need the village, they agree to find another elephant for it. They turn to a procurement officer played by Denis Leary in a role lifted out of CATCH 22. Leary finds an elephant along with a boy (Dinh Thien Le) who is the elephant's young trainer and companion. The Americans make a package deal of the elephant and the boy, but they are on a tight schedule to get the elephant to the village as promised in time for a key festival. To get him there they use all possible means of transportation and in turn get shot at with a complete selection of weaponry - mortars, rifles, surface-to-air missiles, you name it.

There is one point in the movie where they say to each other, "you guys look like McHale's Navy". It was at that point the central problem of the movie was clear. This was "McHale's Navy," but without humor. Although there were crazy situations in the movie, most of the humor fell flat with only the Glover and Liotta smiling to remind you that it was supposed to be funny. The script by Gene Quintano (of POLICE ACADEMY 3 and 4 fame), was boring. The director (Simon Wincer), who also did FREE WILLY, for some reason had the actors play the scenes very low key and reserved as if he was trying to be reverential to the war that killed so many. All of this made for a slow, tedious, and almost serious, movie that was a putative comedy. All of the actors seemed to be on autopilot and were there only to collect their fees.

The violence was handled gingerly. When the Americans and the VC met, the Americans would yank the guns out the enemy's hands and then just hit them with their fists or with gun butts only hard enough to knock them out. Nevertheless, this was a war and exploding bombs, bullets, and missiles meant to kill the Americans can be scary to children.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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