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April 5, 2019

Dumbo (2019) --- "This Beloved Tale Will Take You To New Heights."

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
     Directed by Tim Burton (Beetlejuice 2), written by Ehren Kruger (Ghost in the Shell), and based on the novel by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, Dumbo (2019) is the latest Disney remake of 2019 and is inspired by the 1941 animation. Max Medici (Danny DeVito) owner of the Medici Brothers Circus, is struggling through tough times and big budget cuts that are running his business into the ground. When former circus star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns from fighting in WW1, Max enlists him and his children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), to take care of the newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him the laughing stock of the already struggling circus. When Holt’s children discover that Dumbo can use his oversized ears to fly, he soon becomes the main attraction, bringing in huge audiences and revitalizing the run-down circus. However, Dumbo’s magical ears also prove to attract the attention of the evil silver-tongued entrepreneur, V.A Vandervere (Michael Keaton) who offers to save the circus in exchange for allowing Dumbo to be the star of his amusement park.  Things seem to be changing for the better but when Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets hiding beneath the shiny veneer can they put a stop to it before it’s too late? Or will their promise to Dumbo be broken?
     Over the last 30 years, Tim Burton has made a number of memorable films with iconic films like  Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989),  Edward Scissor Hands (1990), Ed Wood (1994), Sweeny Todd (2007), and many more. At the same time, Burton has also been known for making some pretty big flops that cannot be unseen, like Mars Attacks (1996), Planet of the Apes (2001), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016), and more. But no matter their success rating, Burton’s films always seem to carry his own distinct visual style and his most recent endeavor is no exception. Dumbo is a cute fantasy adventure that brings Disney’s classic 1941 short animation to life and with Tim Burton at the helm, the film takes on a slightly darker tone that is complemented with bold colors, a charming story, and a talented cast. And while it will never be as successful as Burton’s iconic 1994 film Ed Wood, it still sits comfortably in the middle of Burton’s other work, neither being the best nor the worst.
     The 1941 version of Dumbo was never my favorite Disney film but I was curious to see how a 64-minute, G rated film would be made into a live-action, 2hr, PG-rated film that would be better than the original. I knew to go into this film that while the main components of the film would remain the same, certain changes would occur for in order to length and add drama to an otherwise short and simple film. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same opinion. Some people complained about the ending, despite the fact that the 1941’s ending is completely inappropriate. Others complained about Dumbo not being 100% the star of the show but considering the doubled length time, its no wonder why the human characters would be a necessary modification to the story. People, especially Disney fans, expect every remake, especially Disney ones, to be an exact copy of the original but what people don’t understand is that animated films and live-action films are completely different, changes have to be made in order to play off the film medium’s strengths. In the end, Dumbo (2019) is a charming film that improves on the animation and also manages to be its own film.
     Dumbo tells the story of how being different can cause you to be an outcast but your differences can also be your strength if you learn how to utilize them. The simple and whimsical story has been effectively modernized under Burton’s direction. And while it may not contain princes and princesses, Dumbo is still a dazzling visual spectacle with a lot of heart.
     The cast performances were solid throughout. Dumbo is beautifully brought to life, Colin Farrell (Widows) was great with a southern accent despite being from Dublin, Danny DeVito (Smallfoot) effortlessly steals the show in some scenes, and Michael Keaton (Spider-Man: Far From Home) hams it up as the smarmy bad guy. Eva Green (Euphoria) deserved more screen time but she delivered beautifully with what she got. Finley Hobbins and Nico Parker were good too, although Parker tends to portray an emotionless character. I know that part of it has to do with her character being forced to grow up too quickly, but her character evolution could have been done better. All in all, the casting was great. The biggest surprise was seeing Alan Arkin, although he was greatly limited, he managed to deliver a great performance.
      Overall, Dumbo (2019) is an entertaining, charming and visually dazzling film the whole family will enjoy. The film held my attention from beginning to end and while there were a few small issues here and there, they in no way justify the surprisingly low rating. If you enjoy the live action versions of Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella then I highly recommend this film. Keep in mind though, the film’s rating is PG but I do caution that because this is a Tim Burton film that some younger viewers may find some images and scenes to be slightly scary or intense.

Final Vote --- 8.2 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar
Christopher Robin (2018)
Cross Creek (1983)
Dumbo (1941)
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The Last Station (2009)
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Mary Poppins Returns (2018)
Nanny McPhee (2006)
Nanny McPhee Returns (2010)
Pooh's Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin
Paddington (2014)
Paddington 2 (2018)
Peter Rabit (2018)
Pan (2015)
Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Winnie the Pooh (2011)

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