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Dumbo fails to soar

Imaginative director Tim Burton remakes the 1941 Walt Disney Animation Studios classic Dumbo as a live-action film for Walt Disney Pictures. The source material for the live-action adaptation and 1941 original is a children's book written by Helen Abelson and Harold Pearl. Dumbo tells the simple story of an elephant who can fly.

Screenwriter Ehren Kruger makes a choice to have our title character as a background part while pushing the human counterparts to the forefront, Collin Farrell portrays Holt Farrier, a World War I veteran and former star in the Medici Bros. circus. Holt lost his arm in the war, so his former boss and current ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito) has to give Holt a job of caring for elephants. The circus is already in a financial crisis, so when Dumbo arrives at the circus, things do not appear to be getting better anytime soon.

Holt's son Joe (Finley Hobbins) and daughter Milly (Nico Parker) form a bond with Dumbo and, in time, teach him how to fly. Once Max learns Dumbo can fly, the circus catches the eye of V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), an evil entrepreneur who buys the circus and has evil plans for Dumbo. When Vandevere buys the circus, the action shifts to New York, and we meet Colette Marchant (Eva Green), a French trapeze artist who will ride Dumbo.

The cast all provide mediocre work with the material given. My primary reason for seeing Dumbo was the reunion between director Tim Burton and Michael Keaton. Disney was successful with their previous olive action adaptations of their animated franchises, so I was hopeful that Dumbo would follow a similar trend. While I have not seen the original Dumbo since I was a child, I recall some of the film's key elements, two of which differ from the live-action adaption. The original version of Dumbo only had a sixty-four minute run time, while the remake clocks in at just under two hours.

Timothy Q. Mouse, the talking mouse from the original, is omitted from the remake. His character traits are given to Holt's children. Granted, Disney could have easily cast a comic in the role and used CGI for the character. However, given the scope of Ehren's Kruger script, the changes work. Given that Dumbo is a Tim Burton film, the film's visuals are a joy to see. I want to point out to parents while the film Dumbo isn't as dark as Burton's previous work.

For the most part, Dumbo succeeds as good family entertainment if parents need to kill two hours. However, Dumbo did not resonate with me as much as the studio's previous live-action remakes. No matter how cute Dumbo is, I did not feel the narrative was strong enough for a full-length feature. Burton and his screenwriter should have gone the stop-motion animated route, which Burton has had great success in the past.

While I did not hate Dumbo, I do not wholeheartedly recommend the film either. Parents and children may find more joy in watching the original in the comfort of their own home as the remake of Dumbo never soars.

Final Grade C-

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