By Megan Bianco
For the first time since the ever-bland Alice in Wonderland (2010), we get a live-action Disney classic remake and Tim Burton together again in a new film version of Dumbo. Burton directing an updated retelling is somewhat intriguing because one of his better films, Big Fish (2003), was partially set at a circus. But can Dumbo deliver equally as well?
Set in 1919 Middle America, circus ringleader Max Medici (Danny DeVito) is struggling to keep his circus in business. When his former equestrian performer, Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), returns home from World War I missing an arm, Medici then places him in charge of the elephants. At the same time, one of the female elephants gives birth to a calf with giant ears. Holt’s children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Robbins), discover that the special baby elephant can actually fly and may be able to save the circus with his magical talent.
This new Dumbo barely has anything in common with the 1941 original. There’s a big-eared baby elephant who’s afraid of flying and forced to work at the circus after his mother is taken away. That’s about it. But, unfortunately, the newer elements to the story, including most of Burton’s modern efforts, have a lot of missed potential. Most of the comic relief doesn’t land, except for a couple of gags, and the kids’ subplots are cringe-inducing. With all of Tim Burton movies, though, there are still a couple of nice aspects that stand out: Danny Elfman’s usual music score for his features and Ben Davis’ cinematography. And, aesthetically, Dumbo himself is pretty cute for a CGI elephant.