Verdict: An unusual retelling of the classic with a Tim Burton touch.
It seems like the season of remakes and sequels is still going strong and Disney is ready to launch into it. The live-action remake of the animated film Dumbo (1941) will be the first of many live-action Disney remakes that are releasing this year. Dumbo also features an exciting star cast including Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Alan Arkin, Eva Green, and more. What’s more exciting is that Dumbo is directed by the truly unique filmmaker Tim Burton who has already brought other children’s classics to life with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Alice in Wonderland (2010). Since Dumbo stands as one of the oldest and most timeless Disney classics, it is interesting to see how Tim Burton reinvents it with his signature and visionary style of filmmaking.
What’s Dumbo About:
Welcome to the traveling Medici Brothers Circus owned by Max Medici (Danny Devito). Once a glorious spectacle, this struggling circus is reunited with its former star act Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell). Holt returned to the circus and his two kids Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) after losing his arm while serving in the war. Medici sells the animals from his horse riding act and Holt is left to tend to the elephants of the circus. This includes the circus’ newest members Mrs. Jumbo and her newborn baby with unusually large ears. After the infant elephant is ridiculed and christened with the new name Dumbo at one of the circus’ shows, Mrs. Jumbo is separated from her son. In the meantime, the curious kids Milly and Joe discover that Dumbo is more marvelous than he may seem. What may seem like his weakness, the baby elephant’s oversized ears can actually help him fly. Word gets out and the enigmatic businessman V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) steps in along with trapeze artist Colette Marchant (Eva Green) to share his talents with the world. However, all Dumbo wants is to be reunited with his mama.
Dumbo is quite possibly one of the simplest and sweetest Disney classics and although the gothic filmmaker Tim Burton might not seem like an obvious choice with this tale, it works in its own way. This live-action remake doesn’t retell the same story but instead reimagines it through Burton-colored glasses. We’re treated to all the visual embellishments of the director’s style while screenwriter Ehren Kruger also put a seemingly meta spin on the original tale. As Dumbo becomes a cash cow or should we say cash elephant in the creative control of a domineering corporation, he is confronted with the struggle to just fly free.
The unique little elephant, Dumbo is achingly adorable and those hallmark blue eyes are as cute as buttons. Speaking of the performances, however, it is Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito who seem to steal the spotlight. As the film progresses, both actors sink deeper into their characters – Keaton aces the over-the-top embodiment of a corporate entity as Vandevere and DeVito is a mellowed out alternative with his zany and naive nature.
In the end, much like its predecessor, this remake is a feel-good tale that reminds us of the value of being unique and it is sure to warm the hearts of a whole new generation of Dumbo believers.
What Could’ve Been Better:
Much like its lead character, this film doesn’t start off soaring. It slowly leans into the heartwarming plot while also tending to concentrate on style over substance.
Why You Should Watch:
As a pleasant surprise, this Disney remake is not all like its original. Tim Burton flaunts his signature visuals in Dumbo while also giving us what we want – a heartwarming tale of learning to be yourself and fly free.