Operation Dumbo Drop
1995, PG, 107 min. Directed by Simon Wincer. Starring Ray Liotta, Danny Glover, Denis Leary, Doug E. Doug, Corin Nemec.
REVIEWED By Joey O'Bryan, Fri., July 28, 1995
Operation Dumbo Drop is a terribly irresponsible picture that seems shamefully patterned after director's Wincer's other box office success, Free Willy. The first feel-good family movie set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war, Wincer's film opens with a number of happy, smiling Vietnamese villagers and their magnificently beautiful elephants being bombed into oblivion by a mortar blast that bathes the screen in a all-encompassing burst of white light. Then, over the course of the opening credits, we see some helicopter stunts, a comic mid-air firefight with the VC, a main character puking his guts out, and a man graphically chowing down on a raw snake. The senseless plot – which the filmmakers insist on telling us is based on a true story – finds hard-headed Captain Doyle (Liotta) teaming up with a more humanitarian, if equally stubborn, soldier named Sam Cahill (Glover) in order to track down and deliver an elephant to a nearby village. Assisted by a trio of stereotypically wacky comic-relief sidekicks (Denis Leary as the lovable but cold-hearted opportunist, Doug E. Doug as the lovable fraidy-cat, and Corin Nemec as the lovable country boy), this motley group heads into the jungle where they “buy” both an elephant and his master – (a lovable, of course) knife-wielding young boy who, following his parents' death in the war, hates Americans with a passion. Together, this bunch of losers slowly bond together as they travel cross-country with their elephant Bo-Tat, whom director Wincer exploits not for her natural beauty (as he wisely did with the whale in Free Willy), but for the crude laughs provided by her supposedly side-splitting bodily functions. Operation Dumbo Drop is a rotten movie for many reasons – take its illogical scripting, inconsistent performances, sloppy direction, or the unbelievably offensive oversimplification of the atrocities of the Vietnam war. Ultimately, the film fails because it has no audience. The younger viewers are likely to be bored and confused by the historical aspects of the movie (How many 10-year-olds know what the Ho Chi Minh Trail is?) and adults are likely to find the whole affair far too whitewashed and pedestrian to hold their attention. There is one effective sequence – played up with obvious desperation by the movie's trailers – in which the elephant, thanks to a wide array of fairly convincing special effects, parachutes from a plane. Beyond this genuinely exciting bit of footage, Operation Dumbo Drop is a disastrous miscalculation that leaves the viewer with only one burning thought: “What the hell were they thinking?”