Film Review: Dumbo

A live-action adaptation of the 1941 classic Disney animation of the same name, which was based on the novel by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, Dumbo follows a young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly. Directed by Tim Burton, Dumbo becomes the star of a struggling travelling circus owned by Max Medici (Danny DeVito). But when the circus makes an incredible comeback, it attracts the persuasive entrepreneur, V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton). In his new home, Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), but he soon needs the help of his friends – Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) – when they discover dark secrets beneath Dreamland’s shiny veneer.


The original Dumbo is one of the few Disney films that I don’t really enjoy. I thought that it had a brilliant message, but much of it made me feel either sad or scared, so it isn’t one that I re-watch very often.

This live-action re-imagination works on some levels. The opening scenes are enjoyable, Dumbo is incredibly cute, and most of the performances are well fitting. It also expands on the original story well, but the story largely misses out on the Disney message that 1) Appearances don’t matter, and 2) You can do anything if you just believe. I think the film may actually even use that quote, but I still don’t feel like that was what it was trying to say.

Most of all, I didn’t get on with Michael Keaton‘s character, so it all went downhill after his introduction, for me.

I love many of Tim Burton‘s films and this one feels a lot closer to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children than any of his others (which I really enjoyed), but many of the circus scenes feel more Will Wonka-esque with something threatening and disturbing lurking from underneath, which really unsettles me.

Finley Hobbins and Nico Parker are both excellent and it was great to see Danny DeVito have so much fun with the role, but the outstanding cast doesn’t make this anything more than average.

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