Dumbo ★★★

”We're all family here, no matter how small.”

Of these recent live-action adaptations of Disney’s classic animated films “Dumbo” (2019) is arguably the project that was hardest to execute. Disney has chosen to discard the spoken dialogue from the animal characters which means that this version diverges completely from the 1941 classic. “Dumbo” is now anchored on human characters, and the challenge here would be to make them as engaging as the main attraction. Ehren Kruger makes the members of the Farrier family mirror the cute flying elephant – the children too are motherless; the daughter cannot fit in her environment; and the father figure is perceived as a circus freak. The identical features between the protagonist and his human counterparts help to characterize Dumbo – a character that would be hard to portray given our inability to have access to his feelings through dialogue.

Although the members of the Farrier family complement the narrative competently, the film’s dependence on these new characters we have no emotional relationship with is slightly upsetting. This feeling is amplified by the bland performances from Colin Farrell and the child actors – a nutty Michael Keaton and a charming Eva Green do not offer enough charisma to fully fuel this journey. However, the tale itself seems oddly appropriate for Tim Burton. He has always made pictures about freaks that fail to fit in, and Dumbo, like many of the heroes created by the filmmaker, is someone who finds strength in his quirks. There is genuine empathy from Burton’s part for Dumbo, and that is what makes his flight towards acceptance and triumph inspiring.


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