“Hi, Baby Dumbo, Welcome To The Circus. We’re All Family Here, No Matter How Small…”
With the world currently in a cinematic state of affairs where Walt Disney Studios have decided to take it upon themselves to remake every single famous animated classic from the past century or so, one could argue that the impact and timelessness of the originals means re-hashing them again for live-action cash grabs isn’t exactly worth the hassle. However, with the excellent Cinderella, the very good The Jungle Book and the middling solidness of Beauty and the Beast showing that sometimes remakes or “reimaginings” do ultimately work on a critical level, here we are once again with Dumbo, the latest big screen adaptation of the 1941 film of the same which famously came into fruition in order to recoup the financial losses of one of my favourite Disney releases; Fantasia. Directed by the Gothic wackiness of Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, Batman) and featuring a screenplay from American screenwriter, Ehren Kruger, whose eclectic back catalogue unfortunately contains the likes of Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Ring Two, Dumbo circa 2019 follows a very familiar holding pattern to the live-action predecessors that have come before it, a movie which is obviously designed to open a new generation into the well-versed tale of the large-eared elephant but a movie too which is undoubtedly the weakest example of the Disney remakes to grace the big screen thus far.
With Burton’s last movie in the form of Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children one of the most tonally awkward films in recent history, the American’s approach to Dumbo sort of falls upon familiar ground, where although the basic storyline from the 1941 original remains the same, the decision to add on nearly an hour of running time results in expansion for the sake of expansion without any real depth or substance to any of the major characters aside from the titular elephant who through the miracle of digital effects is rightfully cutesy and undeniably adorable. With the film managing to come off more depressing than fun for the majority of the action, the simple fact remains that not one human character manages to evoke any sense of sympathy throughout the drama, with the dwindling accented Colin Farrell (In Bruges) and Eva Green (Casino Royale) both left to hang by the one dimensional waste-side, the young actors not entirely captivating nor memorable, and the rather geeky reunion of Michael Keaton (Birdman) and Danny DeVito (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) after their work together on Burton’s, Batman Returns, ultimately a massive let down. Decent digital effects and a couple of giggle-inducing comments aside, Tim Burton continues his dwindling career path with a remake which is neither interesting or worthy of existence. At least the racist birds aren’t there this time.