By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
In 1941, Disney studios, in an attempt to recuperate from their financial losses from Fantasia, released a simple, but winning crowd pleaser. Dumbo went on to achieve great success, and at the time, some critical praise. However, the original film is definitely a product of its time and includes some of the less redeeming qualities of the era–particularly, racial caricatures. Nevertheless, the story of the elephant who could fly has all of the core elements of a triumph over adversity story.
Now that Disney has decided to remake some of their films in a “live action” form, and have already done so with some success, Dumbo actually seems like an unusual choice. However, with Tim Burton at the helm, this strategy proves to be a winner. With all of the heart of the original film intact, and some much needed updates to the content, Tim Burton’s Dumbo makes for a highly lovable update.
Though his circus stuggles to carry in, Max Medici (Danny DeVito) remains undaunted in offering spectacle to the masses. Desperate to offer his audiences something new, Max buys a group of elephants, including the very pregnant female Mrs. Jumbo. Meanwhile, the horse rider Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns to the circus as a war veteran, but missing one of his arms. When Mrs. Jumbo gives birth to her baby, the Medici circus doesn’t know it yet, but they are about to make a major breakthough.
Written by Ehren Krueger, based on Disney’s Dumbo by Otto Englander, Joe Grant, and Dick Hemer, Tim Burton’s Dumbo maintains the heart and soul of what makes the original film lovable, takes it into more modern territory, and still features the director’s visual flair. Burton obviously has much love for what makes the old movie great and even includes multiple nods and Easter eggs to the film. However, what really makes this movie so special is the filmmakers’ love for its central characters.
Now, I am not going to lie, but one of the weaknesses of the film, and it’s a distracting one, but Colin Farrell’s heavily affected accent as Holt is so attrocious, that I feel that it was an unnecessary choice. Otherwise, Farrell performs adequately in the role. The actors portraying his children deserve much credit, though. Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins deliver great performances as Milly and Joe Farrier, the children who love and support Dumbo and encourage him to shine. Danny DeVito also performs well as Max Medici, the rimgmaster and head of the circus who simply wants to bring joy to the masses. Michael Keaton gices a delightfully scenery-chewing turn as V. A. Vandevere, a ruthless and greedy entrepreneur interested in exploiting Medici’s circus, particularly its new main attraction. Eva Green is absolutely wonderful also as Colette Marchant, a French trapeze artist who performs at the circus.
So as it turns out, this is one particular Disney remake which actually is a better film than the original. Burton and Kruger take what makes the original film great and do something better and exciting with the material. The CGI used in the film also looks extraordinary. One look into those lovable blue eyes of Dumbo and it becomes so difficult to hate this movie.