Imaginative director Tim Burton remakes the 1941 Walt Disney Animation Studios classic Dumbo into a live-action film for Walt Disney Pictures. Both films are based on the children’s book written by Helen Abelson and Harold Pearl, the simple story of an elephant who can fly. Screenwriter Ehren Kruger chose to have our title character as a background part while pushing the human counterparts to the forefront.
Colin Farrell portrays Holt Farrier, a World War I veteran and former star in the Medici Bros. Circus. Sadly, Holt lost his arm in the war. His former boss and current ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito) gives Holt a job of caring for elephants. The circus is already in a financial crisis, so when Dumbo arrives at the circus Max hopes the elephant will restore the circus to its former glory.
Holt’s son Joe (Finley Hobbins) and daughter Milly (Nico Parker) form a bond with Dumbo and teach him how to fly. Once Max learns Dumbo can fly and begins to advertise, the circus catches the eye of V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), an entrepreneur who buys the circus and has evil plans for Dumbo.
The cast are mediocre and seem bored in the film. My primary reason for seeing Dumbo was the reunion between director Tim Burton and Michael Keaton. Like the majority of the cast, Keaton appears to be in the movie for a paycheck. While I have not seen the original Dumbo since I was a child, I do recall some of the film’s key elements, two of which differ from the live action adaptation. The original Dumbo had a sixty-four-minute run time while the remake clocks in at just under two hours.
Timothy Q. Mouse, the talking mouse from the original, is omitted. His character traits are given to Holt’s children. Granted, Disney could have easily cast a comedian in the role and used CGI for the character. Given the scope of Ehren’s Kruger script, the changes work. Dumbo is a Tim Burton film, and the visuals in the film are a joy to see. I want to point out to parents, the film isn’t as dark as Burton’s previous work.
For the most part, Dumbo succeeds as serviceable family entertainment if parents need to kill two hours. Disney was successful with their previous live action adaptations of their animated franchises, so I was hopeful that Dumbo would follow the trend. Dumbo did not resonate with me as much as the studio’s previous remakes. No matter how cute Dumbo is, the narrative isn’t strong enough for a full-length feature. Burton and his screenwriter should have gone the stop-motion animated route; which Burton has had great success with in the past.
While I did not hate Dumbo, I do not wholeheartedly recommend the film either. Parents and children may find more joy in watching the original in the comfort of their own home because this remake of Dumbo never soars.
Final Grade: C-