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Dumbo, the animated 1941 Disney classic, gets the Tim Burton treatment in this live-action remake starring Colin Farrell and Danny Devito.
Circus owner Max Medici (DeVito) enlists Holt Farrier (Farrell) and his children to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes a comeback, attracting entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits Dumbo for his newest venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green, Casino Royale), until Holt learns that Dreamland is full of dark secrets.
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Walt Disney Pictures
Kids & Family, Fantasy, Blockbuster
Rating: PG Some scenes may scare very young children
Reunited with his Batman Returns stars Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito, director Tim Burton delivers his best family movie in ages, with a live-action meets CGI reworking of Disney’s 1941 animated classic. Dropping the original’s overt racism and animal cruelty, this Dumbo delivers wholesome family fare, in an uncynically old-time tale of how, if you believe in yourself, and never judge a book by its cover, working together we can achieve anything. Colin Farrell plays Holt, an injured soldier, returning from WWI, reunited with his two children and the travelling circus he used to headline with his late wife. Finding the circus on the skids and his horse act sold, Holt is offered the role of elephant keeper by owner, Max Medici (Danny DeVito), who introduces him to Mrs Jumbo, mother of a baby with ears so big, he’s given the derisive nickname Dumbo. But, as Holt says, “What can you tell by appearances?”
With the help of Holt’s kids, Dumbo finds his place in the circus, attracting the greedy attention of Michael Keaton’s oily entrepreneur, V. A. Vandevere, who lures the circus family over to his Dreamland theme-park, (which, when the letter “D” drops off the sign, might be director Tim Burton’s cheeky aside to the film’s producers). As you’d expect, the art direction is first-rate, and the Dumbo look so good that when Keaton’s villainous Vandevere first sees Dumbo fly he’s rapt, telling Holt, “You’ve made me a child again.”
Whilst a creaky, repetitive script and flat characterisations fail to inspire much awe, there’s plenty of family fun to be had along the way, featuring respectful nods to the original (including the pink elephant parade, this time without alcohol involved), sad scenes, spectacle, slapstick, and laughs, including a scene in which an incredulous Keaton asks DeVito: “Is that a monkey in your drawer?” De Vito is delightful, Keaton has a blast as the bad guy, Eva Green does what she can in a severely underwritten role, and Alan Arkin appears briefly as a banker. The film is let down by the flat performances of the youngsters playing Holt’s children, and some painfully dire actors in small roles, particularly one Dreamland controller in the last act, who warns Keaton against flipping switches with about as much conviction as a biologist explaining the aerodynamic properties of pachyderms.
TimeOut (New York)
Total Film (UK)
NZ Herald (Toby Woollaston)
Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)
I wasn't sure about seeing a movie like this but I really enjoyed it, the cast was very good and the fact that it held 80% of my 3 year old's attention, I would recommend it for children over 3. A little bit loud in places (for children).... The elephant was pretty cute, as was Colin Farrell :D
A Classic Disney Movie Brought To Life
As with all classic Disney movies, Dumbo was heartwarming and inspiring, and absolutely tugs at your heartstrings as you go along with their adventures. I was a little skeptical of this movie when I heard about the release- in my experience, live action adaptations of animated movies are hard pressed to turn out well, and I was never a huge fan of Dumbo to be entirely honest, so I was taken by surprise by how much I enjoyed this movie. I went to see it with my parents, and they both really enjoyed it too, so it definitely suits a wide range of ages (and Disney fan or no, you'll probably enjoy it too)! The graphics in this were amazing, everything looked realistic (apart from Dumbo with its baby blue eyes, but even so, realistic enough to not make me cringe), which is a big plus as it really adds to the experience. Disney has an incredible way of making you feel like a child again, staring tat wonder with their creations, and it's no different with this movie.
A bit boring, but ok
I kept imaging that Colin Farrell was drunk, and also whether Rhea Perlman would ever visit Danny Devito on set. I also couldn't sleep until 2am because I ate a whole bag of M&Ms. But I did like when Dumbo flew around via the power of his ears, that was pretty good!!!!
Expect The Expected Until It Comes To Colin Farrell's Arm
A classic heart felt Disney movie that takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions. With an overly exaggerated love for a computerized elephant trying to find his feet in the world, or should we say; ears! A classic tale of try, fail and try again, with the ultimate ending of success. A very predictable linear with the classic happy ending. The motion graphics were good until it came to Colin Farrell's 'missing arm' which seemed to have no real relevance to the narrative or his character, other than a soldier returning from war and scaring his children with the concept. Also when it comes to characters, you have the classic good guys vs. bad guys, but there seems to be a lost angle on the dead mother, and as a viewer you are left wondering what happened to her. The emphasis of the movie was obviously focusing around the idea of the flying elephant, although I would have liked to have seen Disney tackle the area around animal cruelty more in depth, given how far we have come in society, and the values Disney embed into children. Overall a fun, family film that's entertaining to the eye and pulls on the heart strings.
Adult remake of DUMBO still strikes a childhood chord both young and old
Tim Burton's live take on Dumbo still manages to pull at the heartstrings of the young and young at heart with good performances from former (Penguin) Devito and (Batman) Keaton alongside the captivating eyes of the animated Dumbo which makes the whole story relatable.
Dumbo disregards its titular character for human characters, and suffers for it
When Disney first announced they would be doing live-action reboots of their early animation features, I was incredibly sceptical. Especially when the first one would be the animal-heavy The Jungle Book, a film that was shot entirely in a studio. In the end, however, I was thoroughly impressed with that 2016 adaptation. I just wish I could say the same thing about this Dumbo remake.
While the CGI and visual effects are reasonably spectacular (albeit quite noticeable), the story is where the film really struggles. Surprisingly, for a film that goes on and on about instilling "wonder" in the audience, I left the theatre underwhelmed. Unlike the 1941 original which focused on the non-human characters, the 2019 edition inserts a number of additional human characters all with their own subplots, which actually takes the emphasis away from Dumbo.
The additional plot points would be expected considering the original film was just over an hour long, and this remake clocking in just short of two hours, but a complete shift in perspective from animal to human proves too much of a distraction and sucks a lot of the emotion from the film. You still get those big impactful moments recreated from the original, but they are pushed into the start of the film in order to service the new storyline.
As far as the casting goes, you can't help but feel like Tim Burton really wanted Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter to this film, but facing enough ridicule for constantly casting them, went ahead and got Michael Keaton and Eva Green involved with the distinct instructions to do their best Depp and Cart impersonations. Colin Farrell does okay, but his entire arc in the story plays out as rather unnecessary. Child actor Nico Farmer has a wooden performance with every line of dialogue spoken in the exact same tone. The only character to get a proper character arc comes from Danny DeVito's ringmaster character, and even that arc takes a while to build into anything.
Dumbo does look adorable. The tiny trunk and big glossy eyes do make you want to say "aww", but at the same time, the face and eyes lack emotional variety. Dumbo always looks on the verge of tears despite being very cute, and it makes it hard to really gauge the emotions of the little elephant (How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World remains the leader in expressing emotion in mute characters)
The entire film is for some reason shrouded in darkness and shadows, and after a while, you do get a bit sick of not being able to see things properly. The lack of a significant amount of lighter clear scenes means you lose the impact of the visual effects and choreography as everything looks the same. The pink elephant scene does still manage to grab your attention though, so kudos to whoever animated that. That piece was exquisitely done.
I'm really trying to figure out what I enjoyed about the film. A couple of the children in the theatre did exclaim "wow" during a flight scene, so perhaps it still has appeal if you are below a certain age range. That being said, there are a couple of scenes that might scare a younger child too, so I'm not really sure where the line is for their target audience.
Dumbo failed to meet expectations, let alone exceed them. With no spark or sense of wonder and no emotional connection to any of the characters, there is no reason to care about the outcome for anyone. I hope that the change in perspective to human-based wasn't a financial decision (Dumbo supposedly had less than a third of the budget of The Jungle Book), as that could spell disaster for future live-action remakes. There's nothing inherently bad about Dumbo. There just isn't much from the story angle that is worth writing home about.
As a side note, there is an interesting comparison between Michael Keaton's characters company and Disney themselves, which I did find quite funny that it mocks Disney's own business practices.