Parents' Guide to

Operation Dumbo Drop

By Polly M. Robertus, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Wartime adventure has language, violence.

Movie PG 1995 108 minutes
Operation Dumbo Drop Poster Image

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What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

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Although the film sounds like a fun adventure, it never quite lands. The premise of Operation Dumbo Drop is extraordinary -- made even more so because it's based on true events -- yet, while the movie seems to be marketed broadly toward families, it's neither exciting enough to hold kids' full attention or developed enough to satisfy adults looking for a little more depth. The Vietnam War is very much kept in the background, which may be a decision made to keep the story more family friendly, but it also trivializes the experiences of those involved in the war. The tender bond between elephant Bo Tat and young handler Linh and Cahill's humble, knowledgeable appreciation of Vietnam and its people are positive elements, and relationships are where the film really makes an impact. The gradual trust built between Linh and the U.S. soldiers and the friendship developed between the boy and Cahill will bring a tear to the most stoic of eyes, and there's a focus on developing an understanding and mutual respect between the two initially mismatched captains as well.

There are times when the film promises to take flight, with some energetic, Disney-esque scenes of the elephant running through the streets wreaking havoc to a soundtrack of Aretha's Franklin's "Think" that channels some much-needed joy. But the only other comedic moments bring temporary relief via the elephant's bodily functions. Maybe if director Simon Wincer had approached the animal with the respect he showed the orca in his previous film, Free Willy, Operation Dumbo Drop could have packed more of an emotional punch without resorting to cheap laughs.

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