Rob Reviews "Dumbo"
I would like to think that now that Disney has both Marvel and 20th Century Fox under its umbrella, it now has more toys in the sandbox to play with beyond making live-action versions of its classic films. With the popularity of “Cinderella,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Jungle Book,” it appears there is no end in the immediate future with “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” on the horizon. But now, we have to deal with “Dumbo”.
Directed by Tim Burton, this version (which is more of a re-imagining over a remake) boasts an all-star cast like Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Michael Keaton, Alan Arkin, and more as the story is told more from the humans’ point of view as the Medici Brothers Circus has fallen on hard times, and its ringmaster and owner, Max (DeVito), tries to breathe new life into his show by purchasing an African elephant who is with child. As his star trick rider, Holt Farrier (Farrell), returns from the war a bit less than he left for it, he is put in charge of training the elephants, and after tragedy strikes, mother and baby are separated with the show’s existence on the line. When the baby’s “deformation” turns into a showstopper of ability, rich man and dreamer V.A. Vandevere (Keaton) comes calling to make the show part of his bigger dream, but not all is what it seems.
With no “talking animal” effects to mirror the original 1941 film, this takes a different path but still does not really set it apart. Even though the Disney machine is full-on here with stellar visuals, all of the feels, and big-budget performances, I am not sure that this makes the case for the House of Mouse to keep doing what they are doing here. I was impressed that Burton is able to dial back his dark style of storytelling with “Dumbo,” but it still does work that direction a bit making this the type of film that parents need to see first in order to make the decision of whether or not to bring the entire family to see it. There are also strong messages about the treatment of animals that borders on over preaching in this film, but it does stay just this side of that line.
I can honestly say that “Dumbo” exceeded my expectations, but I also did not set the bar very high here. It definitely hit me in my animal-loving heart strings but not enough to put this in the stratosphere of films that I will see this year. I have no doubt that this will make its money, but I hope Disney really takes a close look at the selection of projects it recycles down the line, especially with a 50/50 shot with the ones that are currently in the pipeline.