Dumbo ★½

Tim Burton’s 2019 Dumbo remake is probably best defined by Alan Arkin’s last line in the film as his character, a 20th century robber baron, looks at the circus empire he had planned to invest in crumble to the ground: “Wow, this is a disaster!”. If any Disney classic was in desperate need of a remake it was 1941’s, relatively flat, Dumbo - a fleeting film that doesn’t even hold a candle to its contemporaries, but has somehow held on to cultural relevance throughout the years. Burton’s track record as a filmmaker has been trepidatious but has undoubtedly come along with some dazzling hits of unique and identifiable style. Burton’s flair for quirky, eccentric darkness seemed to me to be a perfect fit for the peculiar, grim story but I was drastically mistaken. Within five minutes, the narrative is so formulaically laid out that it becomes hard to sit through the entire runtime quite quickly. Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns from World War I, with one less arm, to his children, who recently lost their mother to an influenza outbreak, and a circus that is quickly going under. Owner of the circus, Max Medicci (Danny DeVito), made one last hail mary purchase of a pregnant Asian elephant, hoping for a profitable calf. The conflicts of the film are laid out quickly and haphazardly, almost as if it were a chore that wasn’t worth giving time to. Each character isn’t only a caricature, but uninteresting shells of people only meant to drive the boring and well-known plot forward. It’s massively disappointing to have such drab characters when they’re portrayed by such brilliant actors, yet everything is left so unexplored. Whether you chalk it up to Disney as a studio having too much control over the product, or Burton losing his edge, 2019’s Dumbo is one of the laziest big-studio money grabs that had the potential and cultural space to be something great.