March 27, 2019 Dumbo (Movie Review)
Creativity is what gives humanity hope, providing a fantastical escape from the grind of everyday life. Especially true when it comes to a good film, one of the most creative visionary directors in modern times is none other than Tim Burton.
Starting out as a highly stylized animator of many different strange characters, Burton’s has been quite pronounced. Known for directing large-scale, big budget adventurous productions, often providing his own twist on classics such as Sleepy Hollow, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, and Alice In Wonderland, his latest endeavor is a live-action remake of Dumbo. A retelling of the beloved 1941 Disney animated film, Burton’s Dumbo comes to theaters on Friday, March 29th through Walt Disney Studios Pictures.
As a modern day live action follow-up to the 1941 feature animated film, the possibilities were fairly endless as to what could be achieved. That in mind, can the mind of Tim Burton fly away with it? The tale, in its original form, takes place inside a small circus where an elephant named Jumbo gives birth to a baby who has exceptionally large droopy ears. A bit of a tearjerker by nature, it follows the path of a baby elephant who goes from experiencing overwhelming ridicule, as well as separation anxiety, to overwhelming praise, becoming known that with those strange ears, he can fly!
Now nearly 80 years later, the live-action edition, with a screenplay by Ehren Kruger (The Ring 2002, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 2009), has many curious. For those who may be skeptical about the modern version sticking to the original story, have no fear, because all the major points are still covered. Rated PG, opposed to G by the MPAA, the best part of all is actually the dark, tragic plot additions along with the exciting visual depiction of it all with the extremely lifelike CGI elephants.
Then there is the rest of the team involved in bringing Dumbo to life, including the exquisite cast starring Danny DeVito (Twins 1988, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia series) as Max Medici, the ringmaster and owner of the small, struggling circus that later gets acquired by V. A. Vandevere, played by Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice 1988, Batman 1989). Working with Burton in the past, both actors give inspiring performances, adding the most comedic elements to the roller coaster ride of emotions.
Then there is Colin Farrell (Saving Mr. Banks 2013, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2016) as Holt Farrier, a widowed World War I veteran returning to the circus with his young children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), hoping to go back into his job as a horseback rider. To his surprise, he instead winds up an elephant trainer. Unique to the original Dumbo, it is the children who discover the baby’s flying secret, helping to coach him after the ringmaster cruelly sends his mother away for turning hostile in her son’s defense.
Following the buy out of the circus from V.A. Vandevere to steal the fame of the flying baby elephant, his assistant, trapeze artist Colette Marchant (Eva Green: Kingdom of Heaven 2005, Penny Dreadful series), helps train Dumbo so she can ride on him in the air as the main act. Doing so at a wildly imaginative large circus and amusement park called Dreamland, not only does Green’s performance as Colette Marchant stand out, but so does her gorgeous costumes designed by Colleen Atwood. From the circus freaks to the children, Atwood stays true to the period, yet craftily spreads her stylistic artistic vision onto a modern audience appropriately.
In regards to the visual aspect of Dumbo, the experience is extremely enhanced on the big screen, so it is highly recommended to see in a theater. The visual differences and similarities in the settings of the small top circus versus to the Dreamland circus are stunning, as are the added effects in both locations. Additionally, it must not be forgotten to mention that the wildly entertaining score by longtime Burton Collaborator Danny Elfman; one which included a version of “Pink Elephants On Parade,” which super enhanced in a visually breathtaking way.
In the end, the message and moral of Dumbo is very emotional and well-stated. There is also a strong sense that being locked up is wrong, helping promote animal freedom rights. Overall, the feel of the film specifically in the first half, is quite reminiscent of Burton’s 2003 film Big Fish. At 112 minute in length, Dumbo is a visually and emotionally marvelous ride beginning to end. Speaking of rides, there most certainly should be consideration of a Dreamland experience at one of Disney’s amusement parks. Hoping that may happen, until then, Cryptic Rock gives Dumbo 5 out of 5 stars for boding perfection.