Release Date: March 29, 2019 (Wide)
The Mouse House is leaving no stone unturned in reimagining every one of their animated properties, and 2019's succession begins with “Dumbo,” a live-action/CG-assisted remake of the 1941 Disney classic by director Tim Burton (2016's "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"). Dumbo—the big-eared elephant, that is—could fall firmly into Burton’s menagerie of lonely, misunderstood outcasts, and a circus of so-called freaks would be right at home in Burton Land, but aside from a few moments that showcase his signature style and weird, whimsical sensibilities, “Dumbo” curiously comes off as one of Burton’s most anonymous efforts. Where’s the joy and magic? In expanding upon the basic framework of the original film (both based on Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl’s book), screenwriter Ehren Kruger (2017’s “Ghost in the Shell”) and director Burton don’t really do much to make the film pop or make it their wondrous own. Unlike Dumbo, “Dumbo” isn’t anything more than fine, never really taking flight or engendering enough feeling to move one to tears.
Around the end of World War I, widowed veteran and former circus trick-rider Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns home, having lost his arm but reuniting with his children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins). The children have lost their mother to influenza but have made their own family within the Medici Brothers Circus. Circus ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito) had to sell Holt’s horses while he was gone, so he puts Holt in charge of elephant maintenance. When a pregnant elephant, Mrs. Jumbo, gives birth, the baby elephant is derided for having floppy, oversized ears and then watches his protective mama being taken away from him. Milly and Joe take to the elephant immediately, particularly when they realize their new friend can levitate and eventually fly with the flap of his ears when a feather goes through his trunk. The news of the mockingly dubbed “Dumbo” gets around and in comes V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), a charismatic but slimy and opportunistic entrepreneur who wants to exploit the animal as the main attraction with Parisian trapeze artist Colette Merchant (Eva Green) at his cutting-edge theme park Dreamland.