HOLLYWOOD—Well another Disney classic has received a live-version adaptation. I will be honest I don’t understand the reasoning behind it because I’ve seen more mishaps than actual successes. The last being “Beauty and the Beast” which was entertaining, but did not come close to the 1991 original that received an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. This time it’s the 1941 classic “Dumbo” that is seeing the live-action treatment and the final result is mixed.
Look, I’m not against a live-action version of an animated film, but I don’t see the need to remake a classic that is near impossible to conjure up that same emotion that you recall the first time you watched it. There is no need to really go into a deep tale about the narrative, which follows an elephant with unusual ears that happens to become part of the Medici Bros. Circus.
That circus is led by ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito). DeVito does a fine job in the role, but his character is too smarmy for my liking. The same can be said about Michael Keaton’s character, V.A. Vandevere. Both men are perfect examples of capitalism; willing to do almost anything to earn a buck. Yes, this is a PG film, but even in such a movie the adults and kids realize who the bad guys are and who the good guys are.
The one element that surprised me the most about the movie is that it has a lot of heart, and that heart comes from the Farrier family. That includes Holt (Colin Farrell), Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finely Hobbins). Milly and Joe are absolutely taken by Dumbo whose large ears allow him to fly. They treat the elephant as if he’s a pet of theirs and that bond will absolutely strike a chord with the audience, at least it did with me.
The movie possibility taps into a heavy subject matter with the narrative surrounding Holt, who is a World War I vet who lost his arm. Children in the multiplex might not fully understand what is unfolding, but the adults will appreciate the narrative giving us a character that is quite layered and not one note. You really want to get inside this characters mind; not to see what makes him tick, but why he treasures his family now more than ever, after losing so much.
The star of the movie is indeed Dumbo himself, and the film manages to deliver an elephant that is not only realistic looking, but charming to the core. That may be the direct result of director Tim Burton, who knows how to craft a great movie, but at times it feels Burton was out of his league with this movie. The pacing at times is a bit slow and that can create dull moments for the viewer.
“Dumbo” brings nothing new to the table, but reiterates the one thing so many of us forget about time and time again: family is the most important thing in life. The fact that it takes us witnessing the separation of a baby elephant from its mother speaks wonders, but it works for the kids and it even got me as an adult.