Dumbo ★★★

This was surprisingly good and actually could've been great.

I'm not too hot for Tim Burton's increasing descent into the CGI abyss (how great this would've looked directed by 80's Burton) but I guess it works well enough.

There are a lot of underutilised elements. The Medici Circus hardly feels like a Burtonesque circus troop (especially compared to Big Fish). Normally an outsider like Dumbo would be more embraced by a Burton sponsored circus troop. So when they later all come to say goodbye to him it hardly feels earned since there wasn't really a lot of interaction with the other characters.

Similar things could be said about the integration of the family. They are not really needed to tell the story but on paper would still work quite well. Colin Farrell could emphasize with the disfigured Dumbo and have a special connection, just as the children could after losing their own mother. Yet the movie doesn't really go the whole nine yards with either of them. Which makes all three members sort of expendable. In that regard: you don't really need two children other than probably trying to appeal to each gender of your child audience.

Colin Farrell's character is especially "useless". He's a returning soldier who lost his arm and in absentia his (beloved, I guess) wife. Farrell's not really conveying either pain. Nor his seemingly estrangement of his kids which is hard to place since we don't know how long he has been in Europe. The horrors of war he might have experienced there are also unmentioned. You could've milked the whole drama a little bit more if he went from a cheerful guy who had everything to someone without a purpose who is ridiculed which aligns him with Dumbo. And maybe the elephant helps to bring him closer to his daughter again (lose the son altogether).

Burton earns my respect though for the second half of this film in which he essentially deconstructs his own employer. Crazy that Disney greenlit the climax of this film in which Disneyland (or Dreamland as it is called here) is ultimately burned to the ground after trying to capitalize on behalf of its employees. The cherry on top is the ending with the critique of using wild animals for circus shows. I doubt you get that much social commentary in The Lion King remake.

The are some nitpicks like Dreamland trying to get rid of Dumbo's mum at the same time his show is scheduled after he already fucked up the premiere when he heard her (or they heard each other). Why not transport her during the day? Or the other way around: why are they having Dumbo perform at night? How long is this theme park open? The pink elephant scene looked nice although I don't see how they would ever be able to get those bubbles to do what they do.