Keaton Stirs up Pachyderm Problems with ‘Dumbo’ Remake

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

Part-time Palisadian Michael Keaton has wrapped up his villainous role in the Walt Disney live-action remake of the 1941 favorite “Dumbo,” returning from primary shooting in Britain in time for the holidays.

It reunites Keaton with director Tim Burton, who with “Batman,” “Batman Returns” and “Beetlejuice” probably helped pay for Keaton’s recently acquired home above the town.

Keaton’s big-screen career cooled off for a while after that, but he still shone on the small screen in memorable HBO movies such as “Live from Baghdad” (directed by Palisadian Mick Jackson) and “Clear History” (with Palisadian Larry David), as well as TNT’s spy drama “The Company.”

He soared back—a very different actor from the impatient young Batman—with the Oscar-lauded “Birdman” in 2014, burnishing his reputation playing real people in “Spotlight” and “The Founder.”

Now, after such intensity, Keaton seems to be returning to his lighter roots, having enjoyed goofing off in “Minions” and as a nuanced bad guy in “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” with “Dumbo”—part of Disney’s highly successfully live reworking of its animated legacy.

The set-up is familiar: You will believe a cute orphan elephant can fly and bring joy to family of widowed animal trainer Colin Farrell.

But Keaton is expected to relish some of the meatier lines as the manipulative V.A. Vandermere, who snaps up Danny DeVito’s beleaguered circus when he learns it has a new attraction that soars.

How Burton deals with modern moral qualms about circus animals remains to be seen.

The 1941 original was only 64 minutes long; the new version will probably be twice that long when it’s released in 14 months’ time—creating plenty of space for a dangerous Keaton to remind us once again why he is such a magnetic performer.

Even if his ears are, compared to the classic Batman cowl or his next co-star, a little diminutive.