If there is one fact that simply cannot be denied it is that Disney is a money-making machine. Whether they are making the most of the Marvel Franchise or bringing out a tonne of merchandise with every movie release, this is a company that certainly knows how to make money and other recent years they have found a new way of doing so. Live action remakes, and lots of them. In 2019 alone, we had Aladdin, The Lion King and the film this review is about, Dumbo.
Whilst I loved the original animated versions of Aladdin and The Lion King when I was little, I’ll tell you the truth and admit that I was never a massive fan of Dumbo. Creepy clowns and floating pink elephants, it was all a little bit too weird for me. It tells the story of Dumbo, an elephant born with unnaturally huge ears and the family that discovers that he can fly. Whilst this magical creature saves a struggling circus, a move to a shiny new fair, it is found that darkness lingers under the glittering exterior.
The original film was strange and more than a little bit creepy, and now that the flying elephant is back in a live action remake, I’m sad to say that nothing much has changed. It’s still strange, it’s still creepy. It properly doesn’t help that the directing reins had been handed over to the king of creepy himself, Tim Burton. Now the villains are even darker, the clowns are spookier and some of the animals look like something out of a house of horrors.
Whilst you would think that a baby elephant, even an animated one, would be rather cute, I find myself feeling absolutely nothing for little Dumbo, even when he was placed in danger. He was cuter as a cartoon in my opinion. With a cast including Danny DeVito, Michael Keaton and Colin Farrell, this movie certainly has star appeal and oozes with the fun of the circus, but it doesn’t catch me. The cast do well with what they are given, but the real shame is that they are not given that much to work with.
The plot line of this movie fills like one stereotypical idea piled on top of one another. The widowed father returns from war to find that he has lost his livelihood, the children struggle to get their father to listen to them, a baby animal separated from it’s mother in traumatic circumstances, a wealthy man coming to the rescue with a hidden secret. We’ve seen this all before in countless different films and all Dumbo does is adds them all together and creates a strange blur that rattles through so quickly that it’s near on possible to build any emotional attachment to the characters.
Visually, Dumbo is colourful and dazzling. It’s all the fun of the circus with its caravans, carriages, big tops and high-flying acts, all pieced together with bright colours and a number of references to the original songs. But I can’t help but feel that it would have been beneficial for more attention to be paid to the character development instead of the films looks. There’s no point in it looking lovely if you feel nothing for the story.
In conclusion, I think the main reason why the release of Dumbo made little to no impact when compared to Aladdin or The Lion King is that it’s just dull. It appears to be all about the creepy dark moments and the overall look of the film rather then story, connection and emotion. My final thought, if you want to feel for a sweet baby animal, maybe watch a David Attenborough documentary instead.