FF28 - Operation Dumbo Drop

Intro by John Roderick

So far we have never reviewed a film that was preceded by a Walt Disney Pictures studio logo. One would expect them to maybe just sit this particular genre out. There are some war movies that strive to be comedic, some animated war movies that are anything but comedic, and then there's the movie 300 which is animated and comedic, but you almost never see a Disney comedy set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. But here we are!

Here we are introduced to lovable comedic actor Danny Glover, playing the role of outgoing liaison to a Montagnard village up by the Ho Chi Minh trail. And: It's America's most beloved funny man Ray Liotta as his by-the-book replacement.

Right off the bat, the two men clash over their radically different ideas of what the mission in Vietnam is. Kids love this stuff! A minor slip-up lands the village in hot water with the North Vietnamese army who extract retribution by murdering the village elephant and hilarity ensues. Ha! No. Actually, the elephant plays an important role in the spiritual life of the village and the Montagnards will sour on the US if the fallen pachyderm isn't replaced in time for an upcoming festival. And there's our mad-cap premise.

Our Felix and Oscar, our Lewis and Martin, Glover and Leotta put together a crack team featuring Denis Leary, Doug E. Doug and the guy from Parker Lewis Can't Lose to set out in search of an elephant. It's planes, trains, automobiles, helicopters, riverboats and C123s up the river and back again. Except: This time it's an actual elephant waiting up there and not just Marlon Brando in black pajamas. Just when you think: "How many more hijinks can there be in this playful romp?", they parachute the elephant on a shipping pallet out the back of a cargo plane. Dumbo Drop.

Tonally, this movie is super weird, and it troubles me to say, but it actually manages to have a lot of heart. It also offers a really interesting vantage point on the battle for the hearts and minds of Vietnam. I'm not saying it's one we should add to our collective reassessment of the war, it's just food for thought. The film was marketed to kids, I guess, which is freaking bizarre! Every single joke requires a fully formed adult sensibility to even register as a joke, and then a further de-evolution of that sensibility to think that it's funny, which it often isn't.

There's the initial dead elephant, a traumatized little boy, a corrupt supply sergeant, lots of wartime cruelty, a second elephant who is also traumatized and themes of betrayal and loss. Add to this the profound betrayal of casting Ray Liotta in a comedy! Still, there are some special effects that are totally mind-blowing and the performances are pretty good.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that there isn't a box to put this film in, even though I had a pine box ready for it. And its pretty crazy that it even exists. Directed by Simon Wincer and released to a flabbergasted American public in 1995, only 1990s kids will get this. We didn't start this podcast to shoot elephants especially ones that fly. Today on Friendly Fire: Operation Dumbo Drop.

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