'Dumbo' (2019): Flying Not So High
There’s something missing from ‘Dumbo’. On the face of it, this live action reimagining of the 1941 animated film of the same name has all the makings of an emotional juggernaut. It’s hard not to look into the crisp blue eyes of a big eared baby elephant, and not feel at least a twinge of compassion. Even if the story is not the one viewers might expect. With a score from Danny Elfman, the visionary Tim Burton in the director’s chair, and a cast of solid performers, ‘Dumbo’ has the makings of a smash hit. Yet, something feels off.
For starters, this is not the story of Dumbo, an elephant whose natural deformity grants him the gift of flight. Instead, this is the story of a broken family who finds a way to stay together, with the help of their flying elephant friend. The story takes place just after World War I. Colin Farrell plays Holt Farrier, a soldier returning home to his two children after suffering the loss of his left arm. If that wasn’t enough, the family also lost its mother. As they reach their lowest point, Dumbo quite literally soars to new heights.
It’s a sequence of events that ought to be moving. Especially when Dumbo’s own separation from his mother is displayed. There are moments in ‘Dumbo’ that aren’t tear jerkers, but they certainly feel like they’re supposed to be. The film lacks the sense of endearment that makes audiences care about the characters. Mainly due to the characters themselves. Several times a character will voice what’s happening in a scene, both literally and emotionally, robbing the audience of the chance to feel it for themselves.
What’s left behind is a film that feels empty. ‘Dumbo’ has a certain emotional insecurity that makes it almost impossible to connect with. Visually, the film is very well shot, and is the film’s most redeeming quality aside from Dumbo himself, who’s the only source of warmth in this otherwise cold picture.
Rating: Catch It On Cable