More-than-serviceable kidpic makes good use of real and mechanical pachyderms to whip up a boy’s-own tale of a magical Dumbo loose in the ‘burbs. Set in offbeat Saskatoon locations (unnamed in the pic), “The Impossible Elephant” was backed by tube financing, but is off on a lively tour of kid-minded fests. It could pick up a few peanuts Stateside, following the banana peel-strewn path of “MVP”-type pics.
Canuck vet Nicholas Lea toplines as Steven, raising young Daniel (Mark Rendall) on his own after the death of the boy’s mom. Steven has a cozy friendship with pal Molly (Mia Sara), who’s more fond of him than he realizes, and Daniel is somewhat adrift until a random wish on a falling star yields a size-large dividend in the form of a baby elephant in his backyard.
Thinking this is a gift from above (or maybe even from the deceased mother), the boy can’t figure out why dad doesn’t want him to keep the wrinkly critter, now dubbed Lumpy. Still, he manages to get Molly’s support in bringing Lumpy to school for an extra-special show-and-tell. The animal gets away, however, causing a ruckus, but he also manages to protect the boy and his nerdy pal Trout (Alex Doduk) from a fat bully called Butter-Butt (although not to his face).
Pic’s most intriguing segs, from design standpoint anyway, come in visits to Trout’s high-tech forest hideaway, a “Pee-wee’s Playhouse”-style underground fort, complete with computer gizmos and cable TV. This brainiac kid, actually named Gilbert Goldberg, edges uncomfortably close to ethnic stereotyping, but he does get some of the pic’s best lines. When asked if he’s seen any porn, Trout says, “That’s just the Nature Channel with people.”
Script is more reserved with the adult would-be lovers; the grownup part of the tale feels truncated, as if filmmakers sacrificed this angle to keep focus on kids. Result is slightly fragmented, but cast, including William Taylor as the gruff zookeeper, all come off well. Good-looking pic (called “The Incredible Elephant” in Europe) features nice, unpushy effects, especially when it turns out that, like Dumbo, the wish-fulfilling pet can indeed flap his ears and fly.