WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES (2019)
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin
Have you ever seen an elephant fly?
Back in 1941, audiences were treated to an hour long movie about a baby elephant overcoming every obstacle placed in front of him and proving that anyone or anything can do whatever they want – regardless of what people think or say. It was also a really decent, heart-warming movie (the nostalgic visuals always help with that, mind) and one of Disney’s classic offerings. But, it’s 2019 now and, eventually, everything gets remade and Dumbo is no exception. This time, Tim Burton took the reins which, honestly, didn’t sound like such a bad start.
Burton’s signature visuals could and should be well-suited to a contemporary re-imagining, however, that short runtime is surely an issue? It was. An extra hour was shunted on to expand the story and create something new and fresh. Except, this version of Dumbo isn’t either. Well, sure, it’s new – the 1941 finale is pretty much the 2019 opening but from then on Dumbo becomes much-the-same to other movies out there (i.e. Christopher Robin ). Hope, setback, hope, big setback, frantic charge to save/prevent huge setback, peace. Basically, the story has been dragged out too much to create a compelling narrative. Even the visuals aren’t particularly appealing, the standard Burton flourishes of macabre still remain, but everything feels very safe – I’d wager this is Burton’s safest movie of them all. It would be impossible, though, to ignore the pure beauty and cuteness of Dumbo himself, that little guy is the star of the show in terms of making this old heart smile (but even the animation on him was patchy, at best)
Mute performances join the restrained visuals as no one really attempts to break out of their comfort zone. Colin Farrell is wasted as Holt – a former war veteran and Dumbo’s carer, Eva Green is affable but underwhelming in the role of trapeze artist Colette, even Michael Keaton is too cardboard to make much of an impression as V.A. Vandermere – the nefarious businessman looking to exploit everyone for some pretty green. Young Nico Parker also left no impression as Holt’s daughter Milly, her performance flat and lacking much spark. It all seemed as if no-one was particularly excited or enthused by anything there were doing. Thankfully, Will Smith opted for more money (and a probably similarly naff affair) with Bad Boys for Life.
The same could be said for the aforementioned lackluster screenplay – full of cliché and unexciting ‘major moments’ which I believe were meant to keep us on edge. It’s a real shame as a longer, stronger Dumbo would have potentially been pretty decent – a story of hope against adversity without relying on tropes to easily see the story progress. Modern remakes are fine, but, at times, Dumbo is too contemporary – see: Michael Buffer constantly having to say “aaaaaaLET’S GET READY FOR DUMBOOOOOOO!”. Sigh.
Most importantly, the kids will enjoy Dumbo – if they can get past the fairly frequent story lulls – but the circus acts, animals, colours and Dumbo himself should be more than enough to keep their attention. For adults? There’s not an awful lot to cling on to here. The strange lack of heart and muted…well, everything, prevents Dumbo from ever having the chance to truly soar.
March 31st 2019