"Dumbo" Review

Updated on May 14, 2019
Logan Daniel Williamson profile image

Part-time Film Critic | Graduate Student at Columbia University


In this live action remake of a decades-old Disney classic, Tim Burton cannot seem to capture the magic of the original.

There is some technique on display here that is unequivocally Burton-esque, such as the "Pink Elephants on Parade" scene. He adds his own flair to it that makes it very visually compelling. In a couple other scenes, Burton shows off his skills on a technical level, and I appreciated the scarce moments when he got to express that with reckless abandon.

I liked how the movie seemed to make a statement on the liberation of circus animals from the custody of wheeler-dealers. I never thought about Dumbo as a story about animal exploitation for human voyeurism, but this film could serve as the "Blackfish" for circus elephants. I liked that the movie seemed to play into that theme a little more and discuss the "family separation" policy as evident in circus life.

Everything else about this movie was rather thoughtless and poorly conceived. I like the guild of actors that Burton has brought to the screen, but none of them seemed to have a definitive sense of what their character was supposed to be. Each actor had a kinetic, buffoonish-like quality to their characters that came off as distracting and even mildly annoying. Accents were all over the place, and none of the relationships between characters were fleshed out enough to be believable on screen. Michael Keaton is the mustache-twirling villain of the film, and he never found his stride in this movie. Danny Devito hams it up, and Colin Farrell is just bad here.

Many of the things that are done or said in this movie are awkward and clumsy, and it will make you question how it was green lit by executives to be in the script. I did not particularly care for the Michael Buffer ring announcer and that platitudinous expression that is always mocked and reconfigured as a hack reference in movies.

I also felt conflicted about the on-the-nose commercializing of a Disney World theme park in this film. I'm not sure that I like that Burton had a digitally generated analogue of Tomorrowland to use in "world-building." The nostalgia was a plus (for someone who visited DW as a kid), but the lack of originality was a negative.

At face value, I don't think this movie was terrible, and with the right audience, Dumbo will soar. However, it doesn't have much substance beyond the glitz and glamour of Burton's style, and it ultimately is a forgettable, mediocre film.

Rating: 4/10

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    © 2019 Logan Daniel Williamson


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