Disney continues its streak of remaking their most beloved animated flicks into 2019, starting with everyone’s favorite pachyderm Dumbo. They decided to turn the sixty-minute, adorable childhood favorite into a two-hour long, dark, depressing mess by a “style over substance” director who hasn’t made a great film over a decade. How could anything go wrong? Well, not even I predicted that literally everything in this movie would be downright terrible.
For starters, the film doesn’t center around the title character of Dumbo, the baby elephant with comically big ears and the ability to fly. No, it focuses on a human father trying to connect with his two children after he returns from the war to rejoin the circus. A pretty standard story if told using the right actors, which they don’t.
I’m usually not one for ripping into the lack of talent of child actors, but these kids were given no direction and we’re stuck with them the entire movie. When they first see their dad return from WWI with no arm, they react without emotions. No feelings of excitement or surprise after seeing their father for the first time in years. No feelings of emotional shock or mourning after noticing their father missing an arm. They have no expressions and no personalities aside from their paint by numbers characteristics assigned to them by some ghostwriter. A film is only as strong as its actors, and our two leads are as unconvincing and dull as they come. Which leads me to believe this wasn’t the only lazy aspect of Dumbo that Disney was willing to overlook.
Heck, only after only about twenty minutes we’d already retread every major beat of the original Dumbo, including his triumphant moment where he finally flew. Then enters Michael Keaton’s character, a wealthy Walt Disney type guy who owns a theme park and wants to buy Dumbo and the rest of the circus carnies. As soon as this transparent villain shows up is when Dumbo becomes your average predictable movie plot. From this point on there are no twists and turns because you know exactly where and when this movie is going. As well as how it will ultimately end, deflating any excitement you may have had left.
The visuals get an “Ooo…” or “Ah…” every now and then, but it’s overshadowed by the real big set pieces that are painfully obvious CGI effects. The dark tone of Tim Burton once again becomes a loathsome tale of style over substance. I can see people sprinting to defend the special effects and their “visionary splendor”, but I think analytic moviegoers will know better.
About thirty minutes into Dumbo a small child in front of me asked his parents if he “Could go home now?”. And how appropriate of a reaction to this movie, because I hated every second of it too. Dumbo is a lifeless, soulless Disney product spearheaded by a director with no accountability to his boring movies. There’s no rationalizing this as a stylistic work of art or a so-so interpretation of an old animated film. The laziness and overused tropes are clearly abundant, and Dumbo simply lacks any charm it attempted to suck from its source material.
I felt nothing but miserable cynicism and disbelief at this cliched mess. There’s no magic, no surprises, no fun, no entertainment, and absolutely no heart in this pointless, vapid, and shallow remake of a Disney film.
The Verdict: F