Dumbo is supposed to be the fresh, new take on the 1941 original of the same name. However, it adds new characters and places that take this film in a totally different direction. I feel as if Disney needs to stop with the live action remakes about animals if they aren’t going to actually focus on the primary animal. To put it in perspective, this live action remake would be like if The Lion King was remade, but poachers were added and became almost center stage.
Dumbo is the 19th film directed by Tim Burton and is very similar to other Burton films, yet lacks the creativity I feel his earlier films had. It borrows from his other circus/freak films such as Big Fish and Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, however Dumbo felt very lazy. He focuses only on moving the plot forward rather than creating characters for us to feel for, and this is the major difference between it and the 1941 original Dumbo. This version added unneeded characters and, therefore, moments that really dragged the story down in my opinion.
The plot of Dumbo begins similar to that of the original but changes pretty drastically. With the added characters of the Farrier family and V.A. Vandevere, it creates a different plot that I feel focuses a lot more on the lives of the human characters - Milly Farrier particularly. It changes the plot so much to the point that I would no longer describe this as a film about an elephant with big ears but that of a young girl who is struggling to keep her family together after the loss of her mother (with Dumbo being more of a catalyst for her to find closure). This change isn’t completely terrible, however moviegoers expecting the original will be disappointed. Overall, the plot isn’t too strong. Burton definitely depends far too much on CGI and visual appeal rather than carrying on the plot. It will leave you finding beauty within the shots but not much else.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The characters are quite weak in my opinion. The best was Holt Farrier played by Colin Farrell, and he does a magnificent job as he always does. However, even his performance could not be saved considering how Holt’s daughter Milly was so poorly portrayed. Milly Farrier is performed by Nico Parker - I have seen her in other things and generally never really had a problem with her. But in Dumbo, she is in my opinion, the main character. And she is not a strong enough actress for this yet. She was very rigid and monotone in her acting, and any time she said anything to Dumbo that was supposed to be meaningful in her awful tone, it made me cringe rather than tear up.
I do understand sometimes with a script you have what you have to work with, but I believe there are many different ways she could have gone with this role and this was certainly not one of them. Even her face as Dumbo flies for the first time resembles that of a girl watching a movie she’s seeing for the millionth time. I was left very unimpressed. Danny DeVito was amazing as Max Medici - he brought joy and excitement to his role even if it was a very minor one. He is the guy on screen to make the audience laugh, and I loved every second of screen time he got. Michael Keaton was a little less impressive playing V. A. Vandevere, who was a very unoriginal character trying to split up the family. He didn’t play it poorly, but about as much as you would expect any actor to play such a character.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The music in Dumbo was beautiful, as are most of Burton’s films. However, often times I was just reminded of Miss Peregrine’s once again. I felt the musical score was copied and pasted from the two films. They were incredibly similar. Besides the similarities, I really enjoyed the score for Dumbo. The music almost evokes a childlike wonder - which is perfect for such a film about growing up and family. The sound design on the film was fun, as it was a circus after all. There was lots of stuff you would expect to find in any circus film. However, some of it was done quite well such as the elephant’s cries; I felt they were inserted perfectly.
As someone who isn’t overly obsessed with the visuals needing to be perfect, I found them to be bearable for the most part. However in various scenes it was very obvious that Colette was not riding an elephant. It appeared quite choppy and awkward, and it definitely didn’t trick me into believing it was happening. I do have to say though that the most visually stunning was the dance of the elephants sequence. It does diverge a lot from the original Dumbo’s dance of the elephants, but it was a beautiful, almost frightening sequence.
The addition of new characters takes the focus away from Dumbo and places it on the Farrier family. Rather than the 1941 original, where the film strives to make us feel empathy for an elephant, this films tries to humanize the elephant by having human characters directly interact with it and evoke responses from him. It doesn’t feel right, and left me caring less for Dumbo than I did in the original.