FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: On Friday night, I sat down to watch 2019’s “Dumbo,” which stars Colin Farrell (Total Recall , Seven Psycopaths), Michael Keaton (Batman , Toy Story 3), Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia [TV series]), Eva Green (Casino Royale, Penny Dreadful [TV series]), Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins, Alan Arkin (Glengarry Glen Ross, Little Miss Sunshine), Roshan Seth (Ghandi, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), Deobia Oparei (Game of Thrones [TV series], Independence Day: Resurgence), Lars Eidinger (Personal Shopper, Home for the Weekend), Joseph Gatt (Star Trek Into Darkness, Thor), Miguel Muñoz Segura, Zenaida Alcalde, and Douglas Reith (Downton Abbey [TV series], The Queen). It is directed by Tim Burton (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice), with the screenplay being written by Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Ghost in the Shell ). After a baby elepant with big ears named Dumbo saves a traveling circus from expiration, circus leader Max Medici (DeVito) makes a deal with a rich entrepreneur (Keaton) that may change things for the worse.
When it comes to Tim Burton films, you’re always in for a visually-stunning and unique experience. His stories, however, have become a toss-up as of late. In recent times, the director has had more losses than wins, and a chance to helm a classic Disney story seemed like a fast ticket back to stardom. Well, give-or-take, considering how “Dumbo,” while a classic, isn’t held fervently in people’s minds this day of age. The biggest shots are taken at the recreations of Disney features created during their renaissance period (“The Little Mermaid” to “Tarzan”), with few exceptions of golden age material. Anyway, Tim Burton’s “Dumbo.” I was intrigued at his selection to direct this film, mainly because the House of Mouse is looking to give the live-action spin on all their properties by more-or-less turning their animal-focused stories into human-focused ones. Rather than have Dumbo and Timothy Q. Mouse take the circus stage by storm in an attempt to reunite Dumbo with his mother, we instead are given a circus family dealing with troubles, whether it be personal or financial. Dumbo comes into the frame and shakes up their world, giving us the old cause and effect scenario of having a prize pig dangle in from of scheming entrepreneur eyes. It’s by-the-book, and could’ve been more spectacular. While Burton has a lot at his disposal to play with, the fascination of this story is limited to a few scattered moments, as the whole story seems to be just a dull means to an end. Most characters aren’t interesting, particularly the main family we are supposed to focus on, with only few performances by DeVito, Keaton, and Green that really keep this movie afloat. They’re all character-acting, mind you, flashing around on screen to capture your attention and keep you from falling asleep during the more subtle, slow-moving scenes involving Holt (Farrell), Milly (Parker), and Joe Farrier (Hobbins). I didn’t care for them, and to be honest, I hardly cared for Dumbo. While I want the baby to reunite with his mamma, because this story tries to pull itself in many different directions with its human characters, I was left just seeing the elephant snort a feather and flying around from time to time. There wasn’t much to do for our heroes. Everything is straight-forward. They go through financial difficulties; Dumbo comes into the picture; he does wonderous things, until the circus is offered to join a better opportunity through corporate-maintained entertainment; things go bad for the circus peeps; things get resolved. While that may seem like a spoiler to you, it can really be figured out in the first thirty minutes. It just takes a long time (and through sluggish dialogue scenes) for us to get to what we predicted. The stakes weren’t that high and everything came at face-value. While I thought the cinematography of this was nice, CGI often created a hinderance to Burton’s genius. Quite frankly, it wasn’t even that good of visual effects. Computer-generated backgrounds made a lot of scenes seem fake, reminiscent of the revamped “Alice in Wonderland” features, but all the more unnecessary, given how this movie could’ve been shot practically (for the most part). The performances were alright, but some of the more vital characters were played utterly flat, specifically the two main children. Both Milly and Joe were severely under-performed. Milly hardly emoted, while Joe was sidestepped to only a few lines throughout the whole picture. They were the true tethers to humanizing Dumbo, and because they were so dull it made it even more difficult to care for their situation and, by result, Dumbo himself. Really, the only great features about this movie are its cinematography and score. Danny Elfman does what he does best, and Arcade Fire’s take on “Baby Mine” is beautiful. The film does get better as time goes on, mainly because the action picks up towards the third act, but it seems like a slow race to get there, filled with exposition that is more dry than flavorful. I gave Burton the benefit of the doubt. He’s a good director and I have enjoyed an array of his movies. While “Dumbo” isn’t an awful picture, it sure is a boring one, and is easily forgettable amongst the crop that 2019 is yielding (though I won’t praise the direction Hollywood is going now with what they are choosing to produce). In the end, if you like the character of Dumbo, I’d suggest just watching the original. FINAL SCORE: 68%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: