First can we just say the Disney slate of live action movies this year is mind blowing! Dumbo officially kicks off 2019 with a reimagined story based on the 1941 Oscar-winning Disney classic. While we had both seen the original cartoon as kids, neither of us could remember the entire story. But Dumbo is such an iconic and classic character you can’t help but smile when you see the little guy, and who doesn’t love the Dumbo ride in the parks? With Tim Burton in charge, and state-of-the-art visual effects being used to portray Dumbo and many of his four-legged counterparts, we were intrigued to see if this new version would soar or crash. Last night we were able to attend an early screening of the show, read on for our thoughts…
Official Film Synopsis:
From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure DUMBO expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.
Leading up to this movie part of me was super excited to see Dumbo reimagined and expanded upon, but the other part of me was nervous of what Tim Burton would do to the movie. Let’s just say I was pleasantly surprised with how things turned out. While Tim Burton is known for dark and creepy, Dumbo certainly felt lighter and magical. The only darkness being real life things like loss, struggling with money, and the few bad guys. While there are many nods throughout the film to the original with music like “Casey Jr.” and “Baby of Mine” (and a very brief mention of Timothy the mouse), for the most part this film stands alone. There is still the same overall story of odd elephant embraces his imperfections and follows his dreams (spoiler alert: an elephant will fly!), but there is more depth to the story added which is nice.
Another interesting way this movie is different is in the cartoon version the animals are the main characters and speak. In this live action Dumbo is still the star of the show, but the story really becomes more about the people in the Circus. While Dumbo doesn’t speak the movie does a great job of expressing his thoughts and feelings and at some points I even became teary eyed watching this little CGI guy. The cast is also stacked with great actors and they do a great job of bringing their roles to life.
The visuals were absolutely stunning. I love vintage costuming and sets in movies so there was plenty of that. Everything gets even more marvelous when Dreamland is introduced, with glitzy art deco fused with modern marvel. It is obvisouly something that wouldn’t have existed in 1919 but it seems to be believable, but then again I suppose we start believing an elephant can fly too. I also did like the pro animal messaging, it seemed even if they were mistreated at some point, it seems that everything is corrected by the end of the film. Overall I think Tim Burton did a great job on expanding upon this movie while still staying true to original messaging of embracing your differences and pursuing your dreams. While it may not land a spot as one of my favorite movies of all time, I did really enjoy it and think others will as well.
The pacing of Dumbo was very well done. I was concerned that it would be dull filled with exciting moments where Dumbo would be flying but that wasn't the case. Sure those were the most entertaining scenes, but there was plenty to like about the rest of the movie. Also, given Tim Burton's history of making darker and creepier type movies, I was a little nervous about what he would do with this one. None of my concerns were warranted. Just by watching this film, I couldn't tell he had anything to do with it. It was bright, whimsical, and just all around fun. Nothing like I was expecting from him based on past films.
One thing that really struck me was how good the music was. I found it so much a part of the movie that it gave me goosebumps every time the music came up while Dumbo was flying. And not just the first time he flew but each and every time. Also, the cuteness factor with Dumbo was through the roof. Between the bright blue eyes and cute noises he made, who knew a CGI animal could be so easy to love and root for.
Overall, I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. I didn't think it would be nearly as entertaining and well paced as it turned out to be. When rating this among the other live action films Disney has made recently, I would put this in the top half.
The movie is best for: classic Disney movie fans looking for a creative reimagining and expansion on the original film.
View the official movie website.