Overview: The once famous Medici Circus has fallen on tough times in the early 1900’s. The United States is suffering from World War I and the Circus is struggling to provide fresh entertainment to customers. However, owner Max Medici (Danny Devito) may have found a way to solve his issues. One of his elephants gives birth to a baby with extremely large ears and other hidden gifts. Medici must try to use baby Dumbo to enliven interest from his customers and save his business.
Dumbo is rated PG for peril/action, some thematic elements and brief mild language
What Worked: There were many aspects of the 2019 remake of Dumbo that were executed very well. To begin, I thought that the acting was very solid. The two main actors carrying the movie were Max Medici (Danny Devito) and our villain V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton).
Devito and Keaton are perfectly casted in a live action cartoon because of how animated they are themselves. Both actors provide great charisma and some of the best comedic moments in the film. By the end of the movie the audience absolutely despises Keaton, which is the result of great character performance. Other actors such as Colette Marchant (Eva Green) and the children Milly (Nico Parker) & Joe (Finley Hobbins) do an admirable job also. Famous composer Danny Elfman’s score is terrific and provides extra emotion for the highs and lows of Dumbo. The movie’s special effects were top notch and our main character Dumbo himself looked realistic and downright adorable!
Finally, my favorite aspect of the movie was director Tim Burton and his overall execution. I haven’t been a fan of Burton's work since Big Fish, but I feel like he has hit expectations with this gem. The movie looks, sounds and overall just drips of Burtons machismo. The early 1900’s costumes look authentic and the remake retained some of the darker, unique moments from the original in true Burton fashion. Dumbo was well made and it made the viewer feel as if we were watching the live circus in person.
What Didn’t Work: As a fan of the original cartoon I was sad to see most of the original music left out of Dumbo. I was very surprised that the classic original “When I See An Elephant Fly” for instance wasn’t included. Overall the acting was good although I thought Colin Farrell’s character (Holt Farrier) could’ve been casted with a more heartfelt performer. I was sad to see Timothy Q. Mouse’s character downgraded from the original. Most of his character and plot importance was transitioned to the children.
Dumbo takes place in a circus atmosphere so obviously there will be a lot of characters, however I think that the amount of different people being thrown at children left and right could confuse them. Finally, the movie is a bit long for a Disney movie. In fact, it practically doubles the original cartoons length clocking in at right around two hours. In my theatre, many kids started to get anxious and rustle around at the 90 minute mark. Lastly, I kind of wish the animals spoke as they did in the original. It kind of gets away from “realism”, but we are talking about a movie starring a flying elephant after all.
Overall: Tim Burton does the Walt Disney original justice with this new remake of Dumbo. The movie is a tad long, some original elements should’ve been kept and the large number of characters could cause confusion in young children. However, the movie shines because Burton stuck to his guns and made this feel like a true Tim Burton film. The actors are great, the costume designs looks authentic and it still retained the warm message of the original classic. Our star Dumbo steals the show without even having to use words. The visual effects do wonders displaying his cuteness and personality, and like Dumbo himself don’t judge a book by it’s cover indeed. Dumbo is a solid addition to the Disney catalog for children and families alike. It does the original movie justice, providing a fresh angle with an updated imagination.