Dumbo: Pointlessly expanding the plot, losing the magic of the original

Tim Burton’s version of DUMBO, the story of an elephant who can fly, is a circus act gone wrong, though parts of it were slightly entertaining.
by Alan Mehanna English

28 March 2019 | 13:43

Source: by Annahar

  • by Alan Mehanna
  • Source: Annahar
  • Last update: 28 March 2019 | 13:43

DUMBO Pointlessly expands the plot, losing the magic of the original

BEIRUT: Disney’s live-action formula may be bringing in the cash, but unlike the original animated masterpieces, it won’t be leaving behind a magical legacy that will remain with future generations.

The massive flaw within the studio’s rehash of the archive is that the reimagining of these iconographical films is not always living up to the charm and power of the original tale.

Tim Burton’s version of DUMBO, the story of an elephant who can fly, is a circus act gone wrong, though parts of it were slightly entertaining.

The classic animated film is told through the eyes of Dumbo; the humans in the story were background characters/villains in many ways.

In the all-new live-action reimagining, Burton not only expands the plot, he makes the human characters central to the narrative—a tool to interpret the baby elephant's journey—an act of utter distrust in his audience.

The original film never needed a translator to aid the audience to empathize because the narrative’s protagonist was enough to engage with the audience.

Ehren Kruger's script throws in a few homages to the original film, but takes it in such a new direction, that it loses the simplicity and the heart of what made the animated DUMBO the much-beloved film that it is today.

Dumbo, here, becomes almost a side character with a minor journey as the rest of the ensemble take center stage, because how could an elephant with massive ears be given the spotlight?

For a film that proclaims to have themes of anti-bullying, making its main, unique character more of a side show is a bit hypocritical.

Even the original film’s Oscar-nominated song “Baby Mine,” was thrown into the film in the most lackluster way.

This scene is such an emotionally iconic moment, with a song that has remained in people’s hearts nearly eight decades later. Instead of giving it its dues, Burton rushes in and out without a breath nor a chance for the audience to emote with the young elephant crying for his mother.

This rushed storytelling also applies to the other circus performers in the film; none of them get the proper arcs they needed so the audience could connect to them, instead the film ends up with cardboard cutouts of “circus freaks.”

The only characters who are properly treated are the Farrier family: Holt, Milly, and Joe, along with Max Medici, Colette Marchant, and V. A. Vandevere, which is strange since the film’s title belongs to the flying-elephant.

The Farrier children struggle after the loss of their mom, with Milly, played by Nico Parker, wanting to be a scientist and not a circus performer.

Their father Holt, played by Colin Farrell, struggles with reconnecting with his kids and accepting his fate after losing an arm in the war. This alone is a synopsis for a separate film.

Max Medici has a two-dimensional inner conflict with having to choose between his circus family or his ambition, though the character is mostly Danny DeVito being Danny DeVito.

Eva Green, who plays Colette Marchant, tries her best to make her character memorable but isn’t given enough to play with, and though Michael Keaton does villainy so well, his character just feels like a Bizarro-version of Walt Disney and in a way tarnishes his legacy.

The film’s visual effects with all the animals conjured up in CGI, simply do not work. Unfortunately, animals have yet to look fully realistic when computer animated and though the Planet of the Apes trilogy mastered the apes, other films have not been as successful.

Here, Dumbo also has human riders, a narrative decision that makes absolutely no sense, and it looks like a cheap made for television fantasy film. Whenever Dumbo was alone on-screen, and when the filmmaker remembered who the film’s protagonist should be, there was magic.

What is most frustrating about this reincarnation of DUMBO, is that the trailer set it up as a film that was going to bring its audience to tears due to its emotional power, but alas the film lacked heart.

DUMBO had moments of light, moments when the original’s magic broke through the cracks, but they weren’t enough to allow the film to soar anywhere near the original.

Disney’s live-action formula is starting to crumble, and this is a statement and a confirmation that the studio’s dreams of recapturing their unforgettable magic is slowly slipping far away.

Maybe they should practice what they preach and try wishing upon a star, they say dreams come true. 

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