DUMBO IS the first of three Disney live action remakes out this year, the others being Aladdin and The Lion King, and the company seems to have taken a different approach to each one.
The Lion King was close to a shot for shot remake, while Aladdin told the exact story as the cartoon, but Dumbo is a re-imagining of the 1941 original. Indeed, in this film, Dumbo flies within the first 15 minutes - a feat he does not accomplish until the climax of the original.
Dumbo is born to a circus run by a PT Barnum-like ringmaster called Max Medici (Danny DeVito ). His circus has been devastated by the Great War and when Dumbo is born with comically large ears he feels all is lost and believes no one will pay to see such a creature.
However two young children think there is more to Dumbo than big ears. Sure enough, he learns to fly and becomes a valuable commodity to Max. Interested in purchasing the elephant is VA Vandevere, a ruthless theme park entrepreneur. The children from the circus, and their father (Colin Farrell ), a one armed veteran must save Dumbo and reunite him with his mother.
'Tim Burton has not made a good film this millennium. He has struggled to find any pathos or emotion in his movies and has become consumed with CGI'
I loved the original Dumbo. I wore out the VHS copy I had as a kid, terrified of the Pink Elephants and perplexed, but amused, at the Jim Crow song (looking back now it was a bit racist ), although the wordplay still makes me laugh: “I’ve seen a horse fly, I’ve seen dragon fly, I’ve seen a house fly, I’ve never seen an elephant fly.” I also remember being terribly sad at a young Dumbo missing his mother as she is locked up. When she reaches her trunk down through the bars to cradle him. It is a beautiful moment.
Given this new version was directed by Tim Burton, who has not made a good film this millennium, I was a little apprehensive. Burton has struggled to find any pathos or emotion in his movies in the last 19 years. He has become consumed with CGI and it is such a shame, he made some beautiful dark films in the 1980s and 1990s, and I would love to have seen him take this project on back then.
The CGI here is ropey and not of industry standard. The two children are not good. Colin Farrell is maudlin and depressed from having lost his wife and his arm - I thought this was meant to be a children's movie!. The only performance I really enjoyed was Danny DeVito, he has the measure of his character and made me laugh plenty of times. I feel for Michael Keaton who is going all out as the villain but it is a heavy swing and a heavy miss for me - a bit like the film.