Remake giants Tim Burton and Disney come together as we re-imagine arguably one of the most unique Disney tales, Dumbo. Expanding on the 1941 story, we’re introduced to a rabble of new characters as Dumbo’s skills rescue a circus from the brink until they’re acquired by an entrepreneur as cruel as his is persuasive.
The introduction of a greater backstory with the chance to eliminate some of the more tasteless parts of it original should have combined to create a brilliant opportunity for Disney. Unfortunately, unlike Dumbo, Tim Burton’s creation probably shouldn’t be saved from the fire.
Despite correctly taking the decision to produce a more emotive animation for Dumbo, and rejecting the chance for a realistic portrayal, Dumbo does not take flight. Dumbo himself gets lost amongst the chaos of Michael Keaton’s dreamland. Whilst the original focuses almost entirely on the plight of an abused performing elephant, the new Dumbo dedicates too much screen time to secondary characters that quite frankly, no one came to see.
Dumbo is a beautiful baby elephant, circled with gorgeous floppy ears and a clumsiness that made the whole cinema coo. Yet, rather than guiding the story his development seems forced, and stunted. Even when learning to fly the revelation isn’t his.
I found it hard to become overly attached to Colin Farrell’s character and Eva Green’s journey had so little build up that I never truly understood her affections towards our blue eyed friend. This is not even to mention the sickeningly sweet ending, a script filled with plot holes as deep as hard to fill as this film works at being ‘woke’.
Everything was watered down to the point where it had no substance. Dumbo didn’t even fulfill the usual Burton criteria or being creepy, weird and dark, it just ending up looking like someone hadn’t turned on all the lights in the room. To say I didn’t like it though would be extreme. I enjoyed this film enough to not be bored, but I wasn’t overwhelmed.
Overall, despite their best efforts Disney have not created anything with enough vigour, joy or fun ti supplant their originals. Maybe, these are new films for a new audience, and maybe they will in twenty years still be standing, but I don’t think so. I enjoyed my time watching Dumbo in many ways, but next time I switch on Dumbo, it’ll probably still be a culturally problematic feature from 1941.
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