Tim Burton’s reimagining of Dumbo has a super cute elephant…but not much else.
Warning: Spoilers (but not many, as this is a remake)
It’s 1919 and Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns to his motherless children after loosing an arm in the First World War. ‘Call me Holt!’ Farrier and his children live with the Medici Brothers’ Circus run by Max Medici (Danny DeVito). Farrier…sorry…Holt can’t ride horses like he used to, partly because of the whole ‘wounded soldier’ thing, but also because Medici had to sell the horses! Clearly war isn’t good for the circus. However, there are elephants! Three of them! One of which is pregnant…and Holt can look after them! Unfortunately, the baby elephant has very big ears! Oh no! Big ears or not the Farrier children (the science-loving Milly and overly enthusiastic Joe) take to the baby Jumbo (re-named Dumbo later on) and discover he can fly!
Enter V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton, in the role clearly written and intended for Johnny Depp, had he not has *ahem* personable issues). Vandevere runs Dreamland, a Disneyland style theme-park, and offers Medici and all his performers jobs and accommodation at Dreamland, which Medici accepts.
At first, Dreamland seems dreamy – the Farriers have their own apartment, and Colette Marchant (Eva Green), the french trapeze artist, seems pretty taken with Holt. However, Dumbo isn’t performing as well as expected, even with the use of feathers, which he needs to be able to fly! Then it’s discovered that Dumbo’s mother is being held in the sort of ‘house of horrors’ for animals in Dreamland. The Farriers and Colette realise that Dumbo and his mother must escape, or the latter will be killed! The circus family of Medici’s circus, including Medici himself, who seems to have seen the error of his ways, help the elephants escape to India and Dreamland is burned to the ground by an irate Vandevere. The original circus is reformed, with the addition of Colette and the elephants live happily ever after in India.
So, that was bad.
Ok, so I’ll give Dumbo a little slack for being a kids movie and an adaptation of a Disney movie, thus being restricted a little. However, this doesn’t excuse the complete lack of any excitement or emotion I felt.
Firstly, I was completely uninvested in any of the characters, bar the elephant. Holt (Farrell’s character and the “main” adult) has a thin backstory and seemingly no emotions; the children also have no depth, Molly’s “love of science” isn’t explored at all and Joe is pretty much invisible. And the villain, oh Keaton, how hath the mighty fallen? His role was so clearly meant to Depp and he plays it so.
The romance between Holt and Colette wasn’t so much a meeting of minds as an inevitable meeting of the only two single and attractive characters and had no real ending or, in fact, any romantic scenes whatsoever.
From what I can remember of the dialogue, it wasn’t good. I hate to blame writers, because it’s a very hard job, but the lack of rich dialogue can damage even the best actors performances and if you’re looking for any kind of meaningful interactions, you’ll be looking all the way into the film next door.
Yes, there was glitz and glam, bright colours and music by Danny Elfman, but even that didn’t make up for the terrible pacing – the story seemed very bitty and disjointed, with ups and downs that leave you wondering wether you’re in a good part or a bad one.
If you’re looking for a good kid’s film at the cinemas, Missing Link is out on Friday…i’d wait.