Directed by Tim Burton.
Cast: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Alan Arkin, DeObia Oparei, Joseph Gatt, Sharon Rooney, Michael Buffer.
2019 112 minutes
Rated: (for peril, some thematic elements, and brief mild language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman for TheFilmFile.com, March 28, 2019.
Dumbo, the floppy-eared, put-upon baby elephant who can fly, is irresistible, but, sadly, his new live-action film is not. First thing's first: the production design in Tim Burton's "Dumbo" is gorgeous and painterly, worthy of high praise and possibly end-of-year awards accolades. The film as a whole, however, is joyless and dour, seemingly taking pleasure in the suffering of its characters, making one feel unsettled rather than uplifted by the end.
The screenplay by Ehren Kruger comes at the story from the wrong angle, turning Dumbo himself into a supporting player in his own story while instead choosing to focus on boring, mostly one-note humansamong them, a widowed father (Colin Farrell) newly back from World War I; an opportunistic circus ringmaster (Danny DeVito) always in search of his next big act; and a slimy entrepreneur (Michael Keaton) who wants to exploit Dumbo in the worst way at his fancy Dreamland theme park. Would it have killed the filmmakers to write a single scene where Dumbo wasn't in misery, or being taken advantage of? The wonderful, 64-minute 1941 Disney animated version still holds up nearly eighty years after its initial release. This new "Dumbo," while not without a few moments of whimsy (including a rhapsodic bubble-blowing ode to the song "Pink Elephants on Parade"), tries to overcomplicate the beautiful simplicity of the original, and what we're left with is not even a quarter of that classic's depth and wonder.