by Hans A. Carpenter
Release Date: March 29, 2019
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, and Danny DeVito
Mister Marquee Says: Meh
Holt (Colin Farrell) returns to his circus home from World War I with one arm to raise his two kids whose mother has recently died from influenza. No longer able to do horse tricks, Holt is put in charge of the circus elephants including a baby elephant with oversized ears derisively called “Dumbo”. The world is about to find out just what Dumbo can do.
Truth be told, I never cared for the original Disney Dumbo cartoon. On one hand, it makes sense for Disney to remake Dumbo. After all, it was released before Pearl Harbor, this isn’t one of the 90s rehashes we’re talking about. On the other hand, Dumbo was an animal-centric movie, with talking animals driving proceedings. Tim Burton’s Dumbo reverses this, making the human kids and their relationship with their father the core of the story. That could have worked, and does to a point, especially because Colin Farrell is a great actor. It just, it feels a little hollow. We know that Millie loves science, but we really don’t know anything about Joe. The humans are generally half-cooked, including Michael Keaton’s villainous V. A. Vandevere. This is doubly damaging because the tradeoff of putting the focus on the human characters is kneecapping the animal characters. Dumbo doesn’t speak, and really is a prop in his own movie. Imagine if Disney made a Bambi movie where Bambi basically just sits there while humans talk about him. That being said, it’s hard not to root for Dumbo, as he is a likable little guy. Then again, a baby animal getting separated from his mother is the easiest shortcut to feels in cinema.
Burton brings his visual talents in full force, and not in the bad-night-at-Hot-Topic way he did in the early 2000s where Burton’s movies became a parody of themselves. Dumbo is an entertaining movie. It’s perhaps a little more hollow than one would like, but it’s still fun and will generate ooos and ahhhhs. It’s a better circus movie than The Greatest Showman, so there’s that.