Out of the three live-action re-imaginings/ remakes coming out in 2019, with the other two being Aladdin and The Lion King, Dumbo seemed like the one that would be the hardest to adapt in terms of the story. While the original 1941 Dumbo is considered a classic in the Disney library, even famous for being one of Walt Disney’s favourites, it was only an hour long and features a plot and characters that are kind of frowned upon in today’s society. So it was interesting to see how director Tim Burton would attempt to capture the spirit of the original while also making it his own work.
In an attempt to bring a bigger crowd to a struggling circus, ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists Holt Farrier (Collin Farrell) to train and care for a new attraction; a baby elephant named Jumbo Jr. But to everyone’s surprise, the baby has incredibly large ears, making the circus a laughing stock, naming the poor elephant “Dumbo”. However, Farrier’s children; Millie (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), discover that Dumbo’s ears and a loose feather allow him to fly. This brings the attention of another circus owner, V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), and his star performer, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), as they make Dumbo the next big thing in show business.
Tim Burton’s common trope and love for an outcast protagonist that is looked down upon works very well in making Dumbo himself a very sympathetic and adorable character with a tragic story. While the story revolving around the human characters mostly overshadows Dumbo, the cast does a great job in making him feel real as they watch the elephant fly in child-like wonder, as well as having outstanding special effects.
While it is certainly one of the more gentler movies that Burton has done, there is definitely some flair that reminds you that it is the same man that made Beetlejuice or Edward Scissorhands. During a sequence that pays homage to a famous dancing scene in the original Dumbo, the wacky visuals are overlayed with a very Danny Elfman heavy soundtrack. The Burton look is also quite present in the circus environment, featuring some quirky character and set designs.
Overall, Dumbo is an entertaining adaptation of the original film and is one of Tim Burton’s better movies in recent years. The film has an adorable protagonist brought to life by stunning special effects and has a great cast. I would highly recommend the movie to families, especially those with young children, as there is something there for each generation.
Rating: ★★★(1/2) out of 5
Dumbo hits cinemas March 28th.