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Movie Review: “Dumbo”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 3/29/2019

Theatrical Release: 3/29/2019

Synopsis

Holt (Colin Farrell) used to be the star of a traveling circus. He rode horses and performed amazing stunts, but his life has greatly changed since then. He has gone to war, lost his left arm, lost his wife, and has come back to find that the traveling circus is in trouble. Holt still has his son and daughter, but without its star, the circus has been struggling to make ends meet. Fortunately, the great Max Medici (Danny DeVito) has made an investment that is about to pay off, big time.

He has purchased an east Asian elephant that is about to give birth. Unfortunately, when the baby elephant is born, they quickly learn that it has quite the birth defect. It has massive ears, far too massive for an elephant of its size, and so the baby quickly becomes known by the locals as "Dumbo". Max Medici feels that he has been ripped off, but Holt's children learn something about Dumbo that could change all of their lives forever.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Dumbo (+10pts)

The Kids (-3pts)

Holt & Colette (+4pts)

V. A. Vandevere (-4pts)

Max Medici (+3pts)

The Main Character (-4pts)

movie-review-dumbo

Pro: Dumbo (+10pts)

I was curious to see what the filmmakers would do with this story, because the original Dumbo from 1941 was a pretty short movie with a fairly simple plot, so the filmmakers definitely needed to add something here. Additionally, Dumbo did not fly until almost the end of the story in the original movie. Fortunately, the filmmakers improved on this story by adding more characters and fleshing out their backstories. The filmmakers also adjusted the story so that we got to see Dumbo flying around much earlier. I enjoyed seeing this new version of this classic story, but I really just liked the character of Dumbo.

He never spoke—as the filmmakers tried to make a movie about a flying elephant as realistic as possible—but I still felt Dumbo’s story. Separated from his mother at an early age, Dumbo formed a bond with Holt’s two kids. He was a very special elephant, and he clearly cared about the people around him that treated him right, but at the end of the day, he just wanted to find his mother. I do not want to say much more than that, I just enjoyed the improvements that the filmmakers made to Dumbo’s story.

movie-review-dumbo

Pro: The Kids (-3pts)

This was an area of the movie that I thought needed a lot more attention. The two kids in this movie were treated as a bit of an afterthought. Holt’s son (Finley Hobbins) contributed absolutely nothing to this story and he got absolutely no character development. He was just kind of “around”. Holt’s daughter (Nico Parker) was developed far more than her brother, but that is not exactly saying much.

Holt’s daughter wanted to do more with her life than be an entertainer, but her storyline went absolutely nowhere. Her story ended up going more toward her being an entertainer than anything else, which made her whole storyline feel pointless and underdeveloped. These two characters were supposed to be what kids in the audience could relate to. Unfortunately, both characters could have been taken out of the movie entirely and the story would not have changed much. I did not care about either of these characters and I do not think many kids in the audience will disagree—although I am obviously not a child, so I could be wrong there.

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movie-review-dumbo

Pro: Holt & Colette (+4pts)

At first I thought this relationship was going to feel like a forced romance between the two characters. It kind of was, but I enjoyed the two characters’ stories individually and I ended up buying into their romance. Holt was a veteran without an arm, without a wife, and who was trying to provide for his two children. Colette was a trapeze artist, stuck working for a man who cared very little for her or her well-being. The two formed a bond through their shared experience, and while it felt a little forced—just because there are two single characters of opposite genders, that does not mean there has to be a romance—I still bought into it to an extent. Could the filmmakers have done a better job at making this feel natural? Sure, but I still enjoyed it for what it was.

movie-review-dumbo

Con: V. A. Vandevere (-4pts)

I never like an underdeveloped, typical antagonist and that was exactly what V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) was. Imagine a character who only wants money and success, and who will stop at nothing to get it. Imagine a character who does not hesitate to use people loyal to him if it means getting him closer to what he wants. Take the most stereotypical version of that character and you have V. A. Vandevere. He was just a bland, one-dimensional antagonist that was given a bit of personality due to the great actor in the role. Unfortunately, Michael Keaton’s performance alone was not enough to make this character good.

movie-review-dumbo

Pro: Max Medici (+3pts)

This was a character that I thought the filmmakers handled well. Having seen the original movie when I was a kid, I expected the filmmakers to go in a certain direction when it came to this character. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Max Medici had a lot more heart than I expected the character would, and Danny DeVito did a good job of making me connect with him. I honestly think that he went through more growth than any other character in the movie, but the filmmakers unfortunately did not give that growth much focus.

movie-review-dumbo

Con: The Main Character (-4pts)

This movie was first and foremost a kids movie. As such, the filmmakers should have focused on elements of the story that kids would enjoy. Particularly, the main character should have been one that kids could connect with. Kids could have related to the two child characters, or they could have found the struggling circus manager amusing or entertaining.

There was also Dumbo, the adorable, flying, baby elephant with obvious child viewer appeal. Rather than focus on any of those characters, the filmmakers decided to focus on Holt. Now I am no child, but I find it hard to believe that many kids in the audience were relating to a one-armed army veteran who recently lost his wife. On a base level, I think kids will understand that the guy had his adversity, but I doubt that many kids will really connect with his story, which might mean stretches of this movie that will bore younger viewers.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

movie-review-dumbo

Grade: B- (81pts)

I liked this movie enough, but I thought it was pretty typical. I liked Holt and Colette, but I do not think they will be characters that kids will connect with. Unfortunately, the filmmakers made them the focal point over the more amusing Max Medici, the more relatable children, or the more obviously appealing Dumbo. Additionally, V. A. Vandevere was as generic and one-dimensional as generic and one-dimensional antagonists come—despite Michael Keaton’s best efforts.

The best part of the movie was the flying elephant, and the improved version of this story. The original had Dumbo flying pretty late in the movie, but the filmmakers of this one delivered plenty more scenes featuring the elephant flying through the air. They were also able to make audiences sympathize with the character despite the fact that he could not talk. Dumbo’s story was simply that he wanted to find his mother, and that was something that was easy to connect with. I had my issues with it, but I still thought it was a decent movie.

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