Dumbo Movie Review
Of the three movies that Disney is remaking into live-action renditions this year, it’s a shame that Tim Burton’s Dumbo will be considered the loser of the three. Not all that well received by critics and sort of ignored by audiences (if you can say $350 million worldwide is ignored), Dumbo is most certainly a cash hole for the studio, and for a short stint had people speculating that Disney’s cynical strategy to just remake their old cartoons was falling apart.
Then came Aladdin, a rather shoddily made movie that is inferior to the original animated version in every conceivable way), which has made a ton of money in advance of what is sure to be the real winner, the completely unnecessary (and not even live action) The Lion King.
It’s a shame that Dumbo’s biggest misfortune is that of the three 2019 Disney remakes, it’s the only one probably in need of an update--and yet because the original is nearly 80 years old (unlike the other two, both released in the 1990s and still family favorites), no one cared.
It’s a shame because Dumbo, while not exactly a grand and glorious movie, is a decent movie, an entertaining and harmless show about an elephant with giant ears and a few humans who care about him.
Tim Burton has spent most of the last 20 years punishing audiences for liking his work in the 1990s, but with Dumbo, he gives us one of his best movies this century. Which isn’t saying much, but still.
With a ridiculous $170 million budget--the real reason why Dumbo isn’t considered a moderate success--the movie looks great, with Burton eschewing his traditional dark stylings for something with grand colors and scale. And a hint of the charisma and energy that made his earlier works so popular.
The movie never actually achieves grand heights from a storytelling perspective, but it is good enough for one based on an hour-long animated film about a flying elephant. With an added hour tacked on for some reason or another, Burton introduces us to a likeable cast that includes Colin Farrell, Eva Green and Danny DeVito, along with children Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins. Too bad villain Michael Keaton isn’t allowed to let loose; he looks weirder than he gets to act, restrained until there’s nothing left.
Dumbo himself seems like an innocent, wide-eyed victim amongst it all, never taking center ring the way you’d expect. But again, the likable cast elevates the material just enough to achieve lift-off, even if it’s never as impressive as an elephant who can fly.
Dumbo isn’t a great movie, but, if only because it’s been so long since I or most everyone else have seen the original, it feels fresh and at least moderately “necessary.” As far as Disney remakes are concerned.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.