I will try to write the spoilers a bit later, but there will be spoilers.
I have never seen Disney’s Dumbo. The truth is I have never seen many of Disney’s animated films. I cannot say why. It just is a fact. I went into this film without any prior knowledge of the past. The only past I had with me was my past.
Max Medici (Danny DeVito) runs a failing travelling circus full of freaks and other things one expects at a circus. Medici hires Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), a World War I veteran who has two children that were left with Medici after their mother died. The struggling family take care of the elephants for Medici. Dumbo enters the world from an elephant known as Jumbo. The children discover Dumbo can fly and as the story goes a star is born.
Of course, there is not a real story until we get our evil villain V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton). This is where the problem enters. At no point in the entire film did I worry about Dumbo’s life. As great as an actor Keaton is, he just was not evil enough. I cannot fault him. The fault lies in the screenwriter Ehren Kruger.
Kruger’s story did not go deep enough to make the audience feel anxious for Dumbo. His writing felt superficial. The plot felt like a ploy to attack big corporations and show sympathy for the little guy who is kept down because of the rich evil man. The problem is that Medici was not better than Vandevere. He signed his business over too easily when he saw the big dollar signs in the contract he was offered. He did not try to make his own business better. He did not consider his “family” of employees, except to request they come along with Dumbo to the new circus.
The new circus looked oddly familiar to me. It reminded me of Tomorrowland. It was all glitzy and glamorous. Yet, there was still a lack of a real problem. There was a fire, evil henchmen, and the most evil of all: a banker.
What could have made this a classic film for all ages? One thing. Jumbo needed to die. Unfortunately, American films love to end with rainbow and car giveaways for everyone. They love to take down the big bad man who hires many people and is only about business. If Jumbo had died saving the Farrier family from the fire, then cut to the last scene of Dumbo flying over the other elephants in Africa, it would have become a classic film of triumph and discovering your family is where you are at that moment.
There was a bit of overcoming your fears which was beautiful told. Dumbo had a fear of flying unless there was a feather in his sights. It was a sort of “lucky charm” for him. It was the thing he “needed” to fly, but actually he did not realise that he could fly the whole time without it. We all have that thing that stops us from flying, but hopefully like Dumbo we can find a way out of it grasp.
Overall, I really enjoyed the film. I just saw a few problems that some editing and rewriting could have repaired. Tim Burton is back on top of his game. Nobody tells the sad dark tales as well he has over the years. All the actors were excellent in their roles. I laughed and felt happy at the end of the film. It was a very good film beautifully shot. 8/10.