Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review of SAVING FLORA: Sincerely Sentimental

July 15, 2019

Flora the elephant had long been the star attraction of a traveling circus run by ringmaster Henry and his 14-year old daughter Dawn. There came a time when Flora became very old and incapable of doing her tricks anymore. Henry planned to euthanize Flora to put an end to her pain and suffering. However, a defiant Dawn decided to spirit Flora away in order to deliver her to the safety of an elephant sanctuary instead. 

Jenna Ortega was charismatic as the passionate animal lover Dawn. She had a easy chemistry with her animal co-star Tai Tai, a veteran elephant actor. Martin Martinez played Sebastian, an older street-smart teen boy whom Dawn met along the way. His character had an unsure risky vibe we can feel as we become protective of Dawn. David Arquette was very good as the father Henry especially in those scenes where he was sick with worry over Dawn's fate. Leonor Varela was circus acrobat Isabella, who was Henry's calming center during his fatherhood crisis. 

Just earlier this year, the live-action version of Disney's "Dumbo" tackled basically the same "save the circus elephant" theme. There were striking similarities in the plots of both films. The lead human character was a headstrong female teenager who saw things differently from her father when it came to how to treat animals. The widower father would just so happen have a romantic relationship with an attractive aerialist. 

Of course there are major differences between the two. Dumbo was a baby elephant ridiculed for his big floppy ears, while Flora was an elderly elephant forced into retirement by her arthritis. "Dumbo" was a big budget Disney film with a computer-generated lead elephant and elaborate steampunk set designs. Being an indie film with considerably lower budget, "Saving Flora" had a real-life elephant actor playing the title role with gritty rustic settings. Flora and Dawn could not simply fly out of tough spots, like Dumbo and Milly did. 

The pacing of director Mark Drury Taylor may be inconsistent to keep the attention of younger audiences. The quality of the kids' acting may seem too amateurish for adult audiences. Redneck hunters (played by Galen Edward and Tom Arnold) in present day Southern California may seem a farfetched peril. How things turn out in films like this may be predictable. However, the emotional payoff at the end of "Saving Flora" was still sincere and rewarding, especially with that little extra twist they added on. 6/10. 

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