Disney is showing no signs of slowing down in its effort to remake all of its classic animated films, but it is easy to justify taking a crack at Dumbo. Clocking in at just over an hour long, the 1941 original is light on story, and famous for scenes that have aged poorly, to say the least. It’s also easy to see why Tim Burton was chosen for the job: Dumbo is considered a freak by the other acts in his circus troupe; an outsider even in a group of outsiders. If only the director wasn’t working on autopilot.
Dumbo himself is an undeniably cute creation, but he feels like a side character in his own story. A much larger chunk of Ehren Kruger’s script is given over to the human characters, which would be fine if they weren’t so dull. Colin Farrell looks half asleep as a one-armed war veteran struggling to re-adapt to circus life, and his children have no distinct personality save his daughter’s monotonous insistence that she wants to be a scientist. The only bright spots are Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton, clearly having fun riffing on P.T. Barnum and Walt Disney respectively.
There are interesting ideas straining to be explored here; not least the idea of packaging magic and mystery for commercial gain, which would have been downright daring for a Disney movie. Instead, we get a perfunctory rehash of the Pink Elephants on Parade sequence and not one but two renditions of ‘Baby Mine’.
The spark of life that inhabits the likes of Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands has been well and truly snuffed out by the House of Mouse. Dumbo may not reach the same level of bad as Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland, but it still feels more like a product than a film.
CAST: Colin Farrell, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Michael Keaton
DIRECTOR: Tim Burton
WRITER: Ehren Kruger
SYNOPSIS: A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus. But when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.