Nick Rogers’ review of Dumbo at the time of its theatrical release this past March is a barn-burner, starting with “No stranger to remakes only a shareholder could really love, Tim Burton…” Ouch. Please head over and read his review, which is considerably more exhaustive but mostly how I felt watching Dumbo for the first time.
It may be the most unfortunate of all the current crop of Disney live-action remakes. Like the rest, it is completely unnecessary — stuffed to the gills with extra roles for famous actors and / or ugly-as-sin CGI that only makes the given movie even worse compared to the gorgeous 2D animation of the original film.
What makes Dumbo most disappointing is that Burton — whose current output quality is up for debate amongst audiences — had a large canvas with which to play. The original animated film is 64 minutes long; this remake is 48 minutes longer, clocking in at not quite two hours. That’s a lot of space to fill in a story that boils down to “sad elephant learns he can fly.”
Unfortunately most of the story added is a bunch of nothing, involving a wounded war veteran (Colin Farrell), his children, a nasty capitalist (Michael Keaton), and a beautiful trapeze artist (Eva Green). None of the human beings adds much to the film. It’s not hard to see the thematic aims — “You’re a misfit, but believe in yourself and refuse to conform, and you can soar” — but that’s simply not conveyed through the story Burton tells, which mostly functions as a prolonged sequel to the original Dumbo. Kudos to the team involved for trying to find something new to the Dumbo story instead of simply re-animating it like some of these remakes, but nothing lands. It never even soars.
Sadly, the elephant isn’t even cute.
Special features include the standard deleted sequences, bloopers and Easter eggs — all of which were pretty fun, even if the movie left me cold. The behind-the-scenes feature is actually really fascinating; the artistry and work that went on behind the scenes building the sets that did exist is more fascinating to look at than the film itself, where CGI is used to such excess.