Dumbo is the latest film to undergo the Disney “live action” remake process.
To be clear, the only live action in the film is the human actors; the elephants are completely computer created, stretching the definition of live action as far as it can go.
This time around, our big-eared friend has had a fancy makeover and delivers a story that’s visually impressive but emotionally stalled.
Back from the war, circus cowboy Holt Farrier (played by Colin Farell) returns, minus an arm, to find his horses have all been sold.
Not only that, his wife is dead. Yes, this movie starts off on a cheery note.
His two children are elated to have him back despite his displeasure when he learns his new job is elephant wrangler.
Mrs. Jumbo (Dumbo’s mom for those not in the know) is pregnant and about to deliver the savior of the circus. Ringmaster Max Medici (Danny DeVito) is convinced tickets will sell themselves with a baby elephant to come and see.
But when Dumbo is born his big ears mean he is instantly branded a freak and is hidden away.
You know the rest of the story – Mama Jumbo is taken away, baby Dumbo cries and learns he can fly. A rich and fancy swindler buys the circus and makes Dumbo the star, until it all comes crashing down.
This film is the definition of fine. It neither disappoints nor delights. The performances are mediocre but the visuals are impressive.
What this PG film lacks in emotional depth and nuance it makes up for in aesthetic pleasures. Baby Dumbo is a visual treat – his details are exquisite. But the plot is thin and it’s just plain sad, with moments of triumph few and far between.
Tim Burton is known for imparting a very special brand of magic that combines classic stories with a dark and unique edge. Sadly, he seems to be running dry on inspiration this time around.
Dumbo contains enough spectacle to dazzle a younger crowd but will leave most older viewers longing for more.
Vicky Sparks is a Bright’s Grove native and movie critic for Global TV’s The Morning Show, which airs nationally on Fridays. Her Journal Reviews cover movies playing at Galaxy Cinemas Sarnia