The hour-long Dumbo gets the live-action treatment in a film running nearly double the run time of Disney’s 1941 animated classic.
Max Medici (Danny DeVito) runs the Medici Bros. Circus and we’re introduced to all the characters moments into the film. It’s post-war Sarasota, Fla. when Captain Holt Ferrier (Colin Farrell) returns home to children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins). Things are much different from when the two children last saw their father. For one, he lost an arm in the war–and this is when you begin to wonder if they would have taken a risk on a one-armed actor rather than go the digital route.
Holt’s wife, Annie, passed away as a result of the flu that hit the circus during an otherwise harsh winter. With one arm and his wife no longer around, the stallions have been sold. This leaves Medici with no choice but to place Holt in charge of the elephants. One of them, Jumbo, turns out to be pregnant. As we all know, Jumbo gives birth to Dumbo, the elephant with large ears. Not wanting to leave her newborn son, tempers soon flare and Jumbo gets sold to her previous owner, Hans Brugelbecker.
When Medici discovers Dumbo can fly, he sees the dollar signs and potential opportunities. V.A. Vandevere sees the same opportunity and ropes Medici into a partnership in Vandevere Enterprises. The typical con artist befriends con artist while hiding all the pertinent information from the get-go. Medici and company move to New York where they rocket to the future in Dreamland. Things aren’t at all what they seem so it’s up to the Ferriers and aerial acrobat Colette Marchant (Eva Green) to save the day.
I’d like to say that “Let’s get ready for Dumbo” is not in the film. But sure enough, Baritone Bates (Michael Buffer) recites the line, a take on Buffer’s trademark catchphrase sans the music.
At one point or another, this live-action treatment of animated Disney classics is going to get stale. In some instances, photo-realistic adaptation may be the better word choice. Much of this film is possible only because of digital techniques. In any event, my interest going into this version was more of a meh. I feel the same way after seeing the film. But again, there is only so much that one can do when it comes to expanding upon an animated classic. The original film runs just over an hour? This one is just shy of two hours and this isn’t accounting for any of the trailers.
Listen, Tim Burton may be a visionary director. I’m not saying that there isn’t a vision in Dumbo. There certainly is but it feels like a run-of-the-mill film where the audience knows who the bad guy is before everyone else does. By the time Max realizes that Vandevere is the real villain, it’s much too late for his circus family.
Films such as the live-action adaptation of Dumbo are what ultimately turn me off of these takes on beloved Disney classics. Ultimately, Dumbo is less of a remake, per se, but more of a retelling. While the visual effects are no doubt impressive, the film just doesn’t hit the mark.
DIRECTOR: Tim Burton
SCREENWRITERS: Ehren Kruger
CAST: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Finley Hobbins, Nico Parker