Dumbo (2019) Review

Disney, what the hell is this???

I don’t, in principle have any issues with you reheating some your most popular films though the lens of modern cinema since you made your name reheating old myths and legends before you took over the ENTIRE world of entertainment.

But I do have an issue with how bad their all turning out. God alone knows why you’ve allowed Aladdin to be directed by a man who’s never made a good big budget film in his life (King Arthur: Legend of the Bored anyone?) Even Lock Stock and Snatch were close to 20 years ago and that’s pretty much what he’s coasted off ever since.

The ‘live Action’ Lion King remake is against the trade descriptions act as it’s being made in full CGI and… I’m getting distracted from this latest baffling debacle which somehow had a bigger budget than Captain Marvel and is therefore going to make one hell of a splash when gets declared a bomb in a few weeks. Not enough to do any good, but it’s a start.

Before I go on, I feel I should clarify that I’ve never really cared much for Tim Burton. I liked his first Batman movie and I’ve sat tough bits and pieces of his other films but he’s never done anything for me. I appreciate that he has a unique style but it’s felt very constraining to him as well. As if he’s carved out his little niche in cinema and he’s perfectly happy thank you very much.

But Dumbo is the least Tim Burtony Tim Burton film I’ve seen for a while. Well, I say seen, the film is so dark and grimy to look at that half the time I had no idea what was going on and the other half I didn’t want to.

We blow through film 64 minute film we all know and vaguely remember liking in the first twenty minutes and then were off! Off to where I have no idea, this film feels like Tomorrowland, Free Willy, some sort of satire of Disneys habit of buying EVERYTHING and then stripping it for parts AND a commentary on getting more women into science were all thrown in a blender together (possibly as a reaction to the fact that some aspects of the original film really haven’t aged that well….) Oh, and there’s a flying baby elephant in there as well if your in the mood for some really bad CGI creation that never for a second looks like it’s actually there. I mean, it as never going to look real but for that amount of money it could have looked better.

Speaking of Dumbo, maybe i’m a gruff old traditionalist but I always thought that if you were the name of the film, the  center of the plot description on IMDB (A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer) is all about you AND your the only character that your cooperate overlords bothered to make any merchandise for then… well… you should be the protagonist of the movie. As in, you are the center of the story, make the key decisions, and experiences the consequences of those decisions. I mean it’s only been that way since at least 526 BC so you really should have figured out that’s how story’s work by now.

But instead it’s Colin Farrell’s character that has the best claim to being the protagonist. He has the tragic backstory (dead wife, can’t talk to his kids, lost an arm in WW1 and comes home to a circus on the verge of bankruptcy)… oh, did I not mention the legions of pointless human characters? Sorry, I really should have mentioned that.

This film has loads of human characters Farrells character erm… protagonist, his two kids- plot device and ‘subtle’ message, Eva Green as love interest, Danny Devito as comic relief and Michale Heaton with a…. THING on his head as villain and generic cartoon goons as… well… generic cartoon goons. I’m sure they all have names but they made so little impact on me that none of them made it into my notes. Besides, I didn’t pay my money to see a flying elephant movie with loads of subplots about money worries, warnings about trusting ‘The Man.’ And god knows what else this mess decided to be about for ten minutes before getting bored and switching focus to something else.

One thing I would have liked to have it focus on is it’s heart. There’s something cold about the film which meant that I couldn’t connect with it, it looked awful. Every scene cluttered and unfocused, it’s shot really darkly as well. Not as in gritty, but as in dark, no light. It also has that issue of there being so much CGI that it just stands out. There was no real moment that was just allowed to be. To allow us to focus and enjoy the wonders of cinema. Ether the editor had been allowed one two many ‘energy drinks’ or the director was worried that if we were allowed the time to settle and take in a shot then we would realize just how bad everything looks.

And nowhere is this more evident than during this films interpretation of the pink elephants scene. You remember them, right? Of course you do. No matter how much therapy you go through, you can never truly forget them. In the original film their this amazing five minute scene but here it feels like the director was going through a checklist of things people vaguely remember from the original. And it’s edited to within an inch  of it’s life! Instead of being allowed to enjoy this random bit of lunacy it’s simply a few seconds of the pink elephants and then someone commenting on or simply watching them! It doesn’t add anything to the film or provide a respite from what was originally a pretty grim narrative, nor does it allow the director to show us what he can do, it’s simply appears, kills what little plot movement the film had for a minute and then we keep chugging along.

Another few rounds with the editors scissors wouldn’t have gone amiss either.

Anything else?

Oh yeah, the animals can’t talk in this one  and the crows (among the few friendly and intelligent characters in the original film) have gone but to be honest the last thing this film needed was more speaking parts and subplots so I’ll just chalk that up to Tim Burton being so desperate to make his own version of Jurassic Park that he overlooked the little things.

Dumbo  is an over-budgeted mess from a director who tried to put a fresh spin on a classic tale but failed on almost every conceivable level. This film is confusing, uninteresting, awful  to look at and full of characters who couldn’t be any flatter if they’d been run over with a steamroller. It needed to be shorter and actually have it’s title character be more than a prop or wacky animal sidekick. Seriously, the elephant in Operation Dumbo Drop (1955) looked better and played more of a role in the plot than this!

Finally, Disney, please drop this stupid, lazy and entitled approach to filmaking. Surely there must be someone in that mass of congealed money with an original idea? I think you can afford to take a chance or two.

Because, never forget “It was all started by a mouse.” One that could !@”@”! talk.

My Score- Fire 



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