Movie Review: Disney Remakes the Daring Dumbo

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Movie Review: Disney Remakes the Daring Dumbo
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Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins has been a reporter with Oakville News since 2016. Covering local news and live events, he specializes in film, theatre, and entertainment. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. Tyler is a proud graduate of Journalism and Performing Arts from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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Dumbo the Flying Elephant is a rare creature indeed. Few of Disney’s classics have the same recognizability and charm of the 1941 original. But this new revamp only ramps up the colours of the circus. After decorating the tent, they forgot to rehearse the show inside.

The core problem with 2019’s Dumbo is the adorable Dumbo isn’t the star of his own movie. This new epic from legendary director Tim Burton focuses on the human characters instead of people’s favourite pachyderm.

Burton’s story centres on a girl named Milly (Nico Parker) who travels with her family in the Medici Bros. circus. After the elephant Jumbo gives birth to a baby elephant, things seem bleak for the circus troupe. That is, of course, until Dumbo the elephant learns to use his oversized ears to soar through the skies.

Those unfamiliar with the iconic story of Dumbo may not be the film’s target audience. Rich nostalgia is arguably the movie’s most attractive quality, best seen through the tasteful integration of songs like “Baby Mine” and “Casey Jr.” from the original.

What’s most frustrating about this new, shallow plot is Dumbo is so wonderfully likeable. Given that the angsty, sour Milly and her forlorn father are featured for most of the film. It becomes increasingly frustrating in the long stretches without Dumbo. Quality time with such a cute elephant, surprisingly, doesn’t get old.

Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

What is strange is the bleakness of the production design. The sets, lights and costumes are as lavish as the showmanship isn’t. The dark hues of America a hundred years ago is just as stark as old-school circuses: all banners and no personality.

Despite the sombre tones, this is still Tim Burton at his most optimistic. The balance between whimsy and dreary is quite nice, and there’s nothing scary to terrorize the target audience. But in one climatic scene with the destruction of a theme park, it feels eerily close to Wonder Park, another recent family flick.

Grade school children and obsessive Disney fanatics will love the production value of a low-risk story. While there are one or two moments of suggested peril, it’s really quite gentle and easy to follow. That makes the film a great first visit for children to the movies.

The greatest fear Disney fans may have is seeing the scene with Dumbo flying through a jungle paradise. Anxious viewers could be fooled into thinking that’s where the movie abandons its final hope of sincerity and simply morphs into the upcoming adaptation of The Lion King.

For now, the greatest disappointment is an extraordinary animal like Dumbo is given a merely passable film to showcase his originality and heart.

2 out of 4 stars

G, 1hr 52mins. Family Fantasy Adventure.
Directed by Tim Burton.
Starring Nico Parker, Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Michael Keaton and Alan Arkin.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP. Also in IMAX.


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