Dumbo: An Experimental Take on the Original Storyline
Movie Review by Anirudh Madhav (Rocheston Certified Movie Critic)
Tim Burton’s animated Dumbo which released in 1941 had the elements of a classic Disney movie with a simple storyline and the trademark Disney animation meant for children. Fast forward to 2019, the movie has been adapted into a live-action, CGI movie, several layers of storyline suited for a universal audience and stunning animation of the movie’s hero, Dumbo.
Screenwriter Ehren Kruger, known for three of the “Transformers” films goes on to emphasize on the human characters, making it seem that the movie is not all about Dumbo, unlike the animated original. The plot is established quickly, where Max Medici (Danny DeVito), struggles to keep the circus alive and is in search of a marquee act to tide over financial crisis. While a baby elephant with huge ears Dumbo is born to an Indian elephant Jumbo and separated from her mother and Max hopes for a revival, however things take a darker turn.
The highlight of the movie is Dumbo, the CGI baby elephant who is as expressive as any of the lead characters. The digital animators have worked on giving an adorable touch to Dumbo, who does not speak a single word, as in the original film. The filmmakers have muted the other animals in the movie, such as the chatty uniformed Timothy Q. Mouse in the original. Then there is a host of stunning performances from Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) who plays a war veteran and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) who act as the voice for the baby elephant.
Most of the first half focusses on establishing the characters, post which the movie shifts to the family crisis of Holt and his children, Dumbo only seems be a part of a story and this eventually leads to nowhere towards the end of the film. Director Tim Burton has not slacked on the grandiose treatment of the movie with cinematographer Ben Davis, production designer Rick Heinrichs, costume designer Colleen Atwood and composer Danny Elfman at the helm. There is attention to detail in the sets and the animation for Dumbo is as charming as it gets.
The movie could have very well sent out a message of self-positivity and hope, but it went on to create a complex narrative that seemed unnecessary in parts. Characters such as the snake charmer Pramesh Singh (Roshan Seth), Rongo (DeObia Oparei) and the circus mermaid Miss Atlantis (Sharon Rooney) who are part of the circus ensemble seem to have a slight resemblance to the group of misfits in “The Greatest Showman” with Hugh Jackman in the lead. If the film focused on Dumbo finding a way to reunite mother instead of emphasizing on other characters, it would have been a turbulent-free flight.
However, Dumbo wins brownie points for its Burtonish touch, its elements of fantasy and magic. It is an experimental take with the original film’s simple storyline at its core and manages to capture the audience’s heart with Dumbo, the baby elephant.