Dumbo, directed by Tim Burton, certainly has some charm to it, and on a few occasions won me over with its dazzling visuals and its lovingly endearing big eared character, but for the most part, Dumbo was a pretty formulaic and unimaginative experience that offered no surprises and never had me as emotionally invested as the original did. Let’s see what it is about this film that has it feeling so… bland, and discover if it’s worth your time.
The Medici circus is struggling, and people aren’t lining up to see its wonders like they used too, but when a new-born elephant joins them, they discover his oddly shaped ears give him the ability to fly and soon business begins booming again. However, V. A. Vandevere – played by Michael Keaton – catches wind of this new marvel and seeks to take advantage of all connected to Dumbo and see that the flying wonder is the only one left from the Medici circus.
So I’ll fully admit up front, Dumbo was a film that my attention often drifted from. There were exterior circumstances that had my mind’s gaze, plus the film is aggressively generic (credit goes to my flatmate for that two-word description of the film) and at times I struggled to care for the formulaic plot and empty characters.
I think you can maybe forgive the film for its formulaic plot (at times) as it is basing itself off of a previous film’s plot, but the total failure to attempt to build and develop and interesting set of compelling characters is pretty shameful on the writers and director’s part.
Each character in the film is completely one note. They each have their one defining quality that tells the audience who they are, and they never break away from being that. It goes onto mean that as the conflict intensifies and the characters are put in danger, it is nigh on impossible to muster any care for them. I never once found myself tensing up in my seat as the final showdown was taking place, because despite the film telling me I was supposed to be rooting for and worried for each of the characters (through dramatic music cues and an intensifying pace) I instead found myself wishing for the film to be over so I could go about the rest of my night.
The only character I ever mustered any care for was one created completely by computers. Dumbo himself is hard to not fall in love with. His big blue innocent eyes, his little whimpering trumpet sounds, and his cheeky but loyal personality had me completely won over. Yes, I’m aware I was totally manipulated by the characteristics and mannerisms they gave Dumbo, but that still didn’t stop be from caring for his puppy dog like attributes.
Also, with this being a Tim Burton film, there were a few times where the visuals on offer were a treat to look at. Not always, as the visual aesthetic that now dominates Burton’s films can be quite ugly at times, but there were a few occasions throughout the film where I was wowed by the magic of the imagery on show. A lot of credit has to go to both the art department and the visual effects team, who did incredible work in bringing the world of Dumbo to life.
But despite having all the potential ingredients to make a wholesome and moving film that has you smiling throughout and enjoying the triumphant conclusion, Dumbo is a pretty empty feeling film. So empty at times, that a lot of it’s more uplifting moments never feel earned. That’s because of a combination of the poor character development, the rushed pace and the predictably unimaginative plot. All these added together make this unnecessary live action remake a little boring and a significantly pointless.
I’ve never really saw the point in these live action remakes and Dumbo is further proof of that to me. I think I’ll just continue to go back and re-watch the originals and enjoy movies from my childhood that still hold a dear place in my heart.
I can’t see any meaningful reason to recommend, Dumbo. I suppose if you have a free afternoon and are looking for something to do, then you could fill it with this – I’m confident it’ll get a few smiles out of you – but beyond that, I see no reason to rush to the cinema to see it.
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