Dumbo: Movie Review

dumbo-film-live-action-disney-tim-burtonUp to now I haven’t been interested at all in all these live action remakes of the Disney classics and I doubt that I will become interested anytime soon. But I went to see Dumbo for the respect I bear to the name of Tim Burton, director who I undoubtedly consider among my favorites. In this new Dumbo, among other things, there are a couple of actors who had worked with the director thirty years ago, namely Danny De Vito and Michael Keaton, in addition to what appears to be his new favorite actress, Eva Green, often appearing in the last films of the Californian director. Finally, the soundtrack is by Danny Elfman, as it’s almost obligatory for Burton, thus it was natural for me to be curious, if not excited. So, what about this Dumbo?

It’s OK. It’s an OK family film with a plot that is perhaps deeper than it seems, even satirical. Why? Because the villain of this Disney movie is practically… Disney! Michael Keaton plays the owner of Disneyland, er, pardon, of Dreamland, and goes around buying smaller production companies, er, pardon, smaller circuses to eliminate the competition and get richer. And Burton doesn’t stop there, because the banker played by the grandfather of Little Miss Sunshine (Alan Arkin, although Burton wanted to work again with Christopher Walken for this part) is even worse, practically being the impersonation of capitalism!

And I also liked the final message of the story, against the use of animals in circuses (except horses, apparently), which unfortunately is still allowed in the vast majority of the world countries. But… I would have liked to see more spirals and crooked doors, irregular staircases, and imaginative and memorable characters like those that Burton could create almost effortlessly in his first movies! Here the setting would have allowed for great things, we’re talking about a huge playground/circus! Yet, everything is very down-to-earth, very realistic, even if the film’s protagonist is a flying elephant. I would have enjoyed Burton with his foot on the fantasy accelerator, but I didn’t find that in this movie.

As mentioned, the film has some good ideas but almost all characters are boring, and the result is that there are no lines nor dialogues to remember and quote. It’s also surprising to find out that in a film completely focused on human characters (the father played by Colin Farrell, his two sons played by Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, the circus master Danny De Vito, the owner of Dreamland Michael Keaton, the trapeze artist Eva Green, the bad banker Alan Arkin…), none of them is really memorable. Also, everything is done with CGI, there’s not a single scene shot outdoors… why was it decided to reconstruct the world in a realistic way? I would have appreciated if Burton had dared more, especially because all this characters’ realism doesn’t really work in the final scenes when most characters start acting as if they were in a cartoon. For example, Vandevere (Michael Keaton) destroys his playground out of sheer anger like Wile E. Coyote would do. This feels out of place due to the (senseless) desire for realism!

And then… am I the only one who hasn’t been moved not even for a moment watching the movie? It seemed so obvious to me that everything was going to find a solution, I never worried about the fate of the protagonists, including the flying elephant. Am I insensitive? Perhaps, but the point is that I suppose it won’t be too long before I forget about this film, whose great director unfortunately hasn’t left any mark. Ciao!

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