Dumbo marks the beginning of a series of live-action remakes of Disney classics that we will see this year in cinemas. It was Tim Burton who reignited this trend in 2010 with Alice in Wonderland. The movie’s great success – paired with auteurial filmmaking that the previous attempts, from The Jungle Book to 101 Dalmatians, didn’t have – convinced the world’s biggest studio to pursue this route as part of their attempt to monopolise the film industry.
The story of the little elephant with huge ears differs from the 1941 animated picture; it’s become a very politically correct tale of acceptance of those who are perceived as different. And, sadly, the mouse isn’t there anymore. There is, instead, a family. Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), a single father who lost his wife and also his arm during the war, has to look after two curious children – played by Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins – whilst working at Max Medici’s (Danny DeVito) declining travelling circus. One day the elephant causes an accident and the estrangement of his protective mother, but his ability to utilise his ears to fly makes him a star, catching the attention of unscrupulous entrepreneur V A Vandevere (Michael Keaton) and his partner Colette Marchant (Eva Green), who promise to make of Dumbo the main attraction of their colossal amusement park.
The main problem with Dumbo is that it’s essentially a film for families with the look of a film for adults. This discrepancy has the potential to disappoint both audiences. Burton creates a wonderful world, with exuberant, fantastic and gothic elements. From the props to the characters and the set design, everything is Burtonesque; its pace and dialogues for children, however, clash with the visual style. Elfman’s orchestrated, on-point score and the irresistible performances of Keaton and DeVito manage to keep it all together. It’s somewhat ironic, though, how a movie that tries hard to celebrate identities lacks one.
In the end Dumbo is a well-crafted, 110-minute fairy tale. It might not excel at entertaining, scaring or making the viewer feel accepted in a genuine way, but it does everything quite well.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Dumbo is released nationwide on 29th March 2019.
Watch the trailer for Dumbo here: