MOVIE REVIEW: “Dumbo” (Don’t Hate Me)

I shouldn’t write a single word without acknowledging that I’m just mad at Tim Burton.
I’ve been angry at him for so long (probably starting with Alice in Wonderland) that it’s hard to watch anything he makes WITHOUT that filter. I’m constantly waiting for him to “Tim Burton” all over the proceedings, which is not a normal way to watch any movie. Tim Burton doesn’t disappoint with Dumbo either (so to speak) by turning it into something akin to Batman Returns but with better CGI and elephants. It left me angrily shaking my head, but that doesn’t mean YOU will hate Dumbo.
There are two main problems with this film, and I think both probably stem from the director.
The first is Burton’s need to turn Dumbo into an ugly sideshow of humanity, focusing on bullies and profiteers. It seems that only two children genuinely care for this orphaned baby elephant when he first appears, with everyone else showing a range of mild interest to flat-out disgust. This dislike for a cute, baby anything seems like an unnatural way for humans to act, especially in a social-media age fueled by animal-videos. This also occasionally makes Dumbo about something other than an elephant, which is an enormous mistake.
The actors appear to be struggling as well, either from lack of direction or from an inexperience with green screen. Some suffer more than others (one child actor is particularly hollow) but even seasoned pros like Colin Farrell and Alan Arkin seem to be searching for something to focus on. There are also some pivotal scenes where characters express no emotion at all. It’s another enormous mistake for a story that’s known for its sentimentality.
The one thing that has to deliver in this film, Dumbo himself, fortunately does. He is perfectly animated and will break your heart with his giant, blue eyes. The gut-wrenching scenes between he and his mother elevate Dumbo above the Tim Burton schlock and remind us why this story is timeless (though it’s interesting to note that circuses continued using elephants for about 76 years after Dumbo‘s original release). This precious baby pachyderm’s journey is what you and your family will take away from Dumbo and why you should (probably) still see it.
I just wish someone other than Tim Burton would’ve had a shot at it. (C)
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