Dumbo (2019)

In Theatres: 
Mar 29, 2019
Running Time: 
112 minutes

Dumbo is the latest in a long line of Disney animated films to get the live-action treatment following the likes of Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book, and Cinderella. Unlike its company, however, Dumbo feels like the an unnecessary remake as it captures neither the heart nor soul of the original 1941 Disney classic. It’s an empty film that simply exists as it goes through the motions without any substance behind its pretty visuals.


Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns from World War I to continue working for circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) but things are far from the way they were when he first left. For one, he lost his arm in the war. Second, Max sold his riding horses so that he could keep the circus afloat. With no act, Holt finds himself taking care of the elephants, including the pregnant Jumbo. Max believe that Jumbo’s baby elephant will bring in the big bucks as a new act, but when Jumbo Jr. is born with oversized ears almost every turns their back on “Dumbo.” Holt and his two kids don’t give up on Dumbo, though, and discover that his larger-than-life ears actually give him flight. Using his newfound skills, Dumbo puts on a dazzling show and get Max signed with big time entrepreneur V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton). But Vandevere only sees Dumbo for the money he can make him as tensions flare between him and Max.


Dumbo suffers from a stagnant script that at least looks good thanks to Tim Burton’s visual style. Dumbo himself is adorable with his big blue eyes, flimsy ears, and puppy-like demeanor. But that’s about all. The rest of the film is surprisingly dull.


The original animated film had its fair share of problems but at least it was colorful with talking animals and wacky song and dance numbers. It’s was traditional Disney. The live-action film removes all the life from the character, and plays it rather safe with its callbacks. The iconic pink elephants scene, for instance, removes the idea of Dumbo accidentally getting drunk, and instead just has them as another circus act. Disney plays it extremely safe with every aspect of the film, resulting in a story that struggles to keep your attention. “Baby of Mine” is given a few lines to be sung, but most other songs are merely referenced through dialogue.


The characters themselves won’t win audiences over, either. You won’t want to root for anyone, except for Dumbo of course, because in one way or another they’re all trying to take advantage of him. Keaton’s Vandevere in especially grating due to him being way too over-the-top. I get he’s the main villain of the film, but he could have toned it back a little and still gotten the same result.


Disney has typically been good at capturing the magic of their films, but Dumbo is a surprising misstep for the studio. Despite having a flying elephant front and center, there’s little that’s magical about the film. You can’t get anymore by-the-book than Dumbo.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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