Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny Devito, Eva Green
Director: Tim Burton
The tagline for the live-action version of Dumbo should be, “Disney presents Dumbo, now with 100% less racism (God that crow scene does not hold up well).” In all seriousness, Dumbo is exactly what you would expect from a live-action adaptation made by Tim Burton. Heavy on the visuals and average on the plot, Dumbo does its job through its ability to entertain the masses and bring joy to the hearts of every child who watches it. Lead by fun performances by Farrell, Keaton, and Devito, Dumbo isn’t the remake we asked for, but it might be the one we deserve.
The film follows Holt Farrior (Farrell), a World War I Veteran who has come back to work in Max Medici’s (Devito) circus. When Max buys a pregnant elephant and it gives birth to a baby elephant with huge ears, Max thinks he got ripped off until he discovers that the baby elephant can fly. When V.A. Vandevere (Keaton), a wealthy circus owner from New York, hears about the flying baby elephant, now nicknamed, “Dumbo,” he brings the crew to New York to work for him. They eventually discover Vandevere has his own selfish intentions while the rest of the group wants to reunite Dumbo with his mother. When you think of Tim Burton movies, you probably think of the stylish elements of his films such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, or his Batman movies which capture your attention and help move the plot along. That is the case again in Dumbo as the color palates and effects are absolutely stunning. The most impressive scene comes in the later half of the movie when we see the pink elephant scene from the original film updated to today’s standards. I was never fond of the whole drunk mind-alternating angle the original film was going for, so seeing this scene used in a practical and beautiful way was a pleasant surprise. Outside of the effects, the cast seems like they’re having a blast in each of their roles. Keaton in particular gives 120% effort in a role that honestly probably would’ve been fine at about 75%. His over-the-top demeanor and eccentric behavior are hilarious within the context of the film which really makes the movie that much more enjoyable. The main change in this movie compared to its original one is the emphasis is more on the humans in this one and less on the titular character himself. This is natural for a live-action adaptation, especially since the original movie is only 64 minutes, but the human characters don’t really add anything new to the movie. Sure they’re all fine in the roles they serve and the children actors don’t weigh the film down, but the reason the original film was so well-received is that we care about Dumbo whereas in this movie he serves more as a plot device for the other characters to operate off of. I think everyone knew that this film wouldn’t be as good as the original, but Dumbo still holds its own as does the job that the Disney machine needs it to do.
Overall, Dumbo falls in line with the rest of all of the other adaptations that Disney has rolled out this decade. The acting is fun, the effects are spectacular, but it’s nothing original or unique. Looking at the lineup that Disney has for the rest of this year, I’m curious to see if they can maintain a constant stream of solid movies this year and in future years. Only time will tell, but in the meantime, Dumbo is a solid addition to the Disney lineup that can entertain almost anyone who watches it.
Overall Score: 6/10