Cert PG Stars 3
Disney’s mission to remake their classic animated films with a blend of live-action and CGI loses hard-earned goodwill with this disappointingly tame and heavy-footed fantasy adventure.
Competent but never endearing or involving, the story again treads the path of a young big-eared circus elephant, called Dumbo, who longs to be reunited with his mother.
When a chance encounter with a feather reveals a talent for flying, it makes him a star of the show, and brings him to the attention of an villainous impresario.
1941’s much loved original is a charmingly brief tale drunk on trippy invention and which won an Oscar for its musical score.
This is a very different beast and though it offers an all-star cast and some spectacle, it’s nearly twice as long with a barely a song of note, and lacks sufficient warmth and humour.
The performing pachyderm himself is a leathery lump of CGI who is sidelined in his own film in favour of the likeable Irishman, Colin Farrell.
He plays a one-armed single parent who after military service returns to work in the circus, where he struggles to reconnect with his kids.
I have sympathy for young Nico Parker as his daughter, who has little to do beyond saying ‘science’ a lot, and as the daughter of actress, Thandie Newton, I’m sure she’s capable of a far more spirited turn than she’s allowed to give here.
With a long standing fascination with the circus and a track record in creating big budget mainstream fantasies such as Disney’s 2010 billion dollar box office smash, Alice In Wonderland, Tim Burton is a safe and predictable but far from inspired choice as director.
He’s recruited regular collaborators to help out, but Danny DeVito’s struggling circus owner isn’t as funny as the film thinks he is, Eva Green is stilted as a trapeze artiste, and Michael Keaton lacks his familiar fiendish energy.
Burton leaves the score to do a lot of the heavy lifting, but it alone can’t make this Dumbo take flight, and Burton only seems enthusiastic when showcasing the sumptuous design of the Art Deco architecture, similar to that in his Batman films of three decades ago.
Circus acts such as jugglers and contortionists are often busy in the background of scenes, and are possibly there to compensate for the lack of magic and excitement in the big ring, which fails to capture all the fun of the fair.