April 1, 2019 – This live action remake of the 1941 animated hit is probably not as good as the original, but I really don't remember the original. I probably saw it on TV decades ago, but I don't recall anything much about it. This new version is visually impressive, imbued as it is with Director Tim Burton's visual flair. The story is weak, but passably entertaining.
The new version of Dumbo features a flying elephant that is very intelligent, but some of the people in the film are incredibly dumb, so dumb as to qualify for what renowned critic Roger Ebert used to call the “idiot plot,” that is, characters have to act like idiots for the plot to work. A certain character acts like an idiot, or possibly an insane person, for this particular plot to work.The owner of a struggling circus, Max Medici (played by Danny DeVito) buys a pregnant elephant, hoping the baby elephant will boost attendance. When the baby elephant, Dumbo, is born, his enormous ears look like a deformity, so he puts the elephant into a clown act. Famed horseman Holt Farrier (played by Collin Farrell of “Widows”) a World War One veteran who recently returned from the war without his left arm, is put in charge of the baby elephant, along with his two children, Milly and Joe (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins).
Milly and Joe play with the baby elephant and discover that it can fly by using its massive ears as wings. When a high platform circus act goes wrong, Milly climbs up to Dumbo and induces him to fly off the platform in front of an audience. The resulting publicity about the flying elephant causes the circus to become suddenly profitable. The publicity also catches the attention of a big time promoter, V. A. Vandevere (played by Michael Keaton of “Spider-Man: Homecoming”).
Vandevere (a character along the lines of P.T. Barnum) has theme park that is like a cross between Disneyland and a freak show. He talks Max Medici into shutting down his circus and going into business with him, with Dumbo as the main attraction at Vandevere's futuristic theme park. Vandevere promises Medici to provide jobs for all his circus employees at the theme park.
Vandevere breaks his promise about the employees and decides to forcibly separate Dumbo from his mother. The former circus employees rebel and plot to get Dumbo back together with his mother. This leads to a lot of action and a huge amount of destruction. The characters aren't deep or well-developed, but most are likable. Eva Green (“Sin City: A Dame to Kill For”) who usually plays heavies, plays a more sympathetic, nice character this time, Colette Marchant, an aerialist, and love interest for Holt Farrier. Alan Arkin, a real cinema treasure, plays a banker. Arkin isn't given much to do, but he glides effortlessly through this film with his usual charm, a wink and a nod.
Even if you have not seen the original Dumbo, this plot is predictable. You put animals and kids into danger, then get them out. This movie is entertaining enough, particularly for children and families, for me to recommend it, but the plot is pretty weak. Visually, it looks great and the baby elephant is very cute.
I saw this in 3D and the 3D effect looked pretty good, despite the fact that it was reportedly converted from 2D video. Of course, much of this movie is digitally rendered and that material is relatively easy to digitally convert from 2D to 3D. This film rates a C+.
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