REVIEW | Tim Burton’s Dumbo is a soaring tear-jerker

The latest live-action Disney adaptation marks yet another hit for the formidable studio


It’s fair to say that Tim Burton has been on something of a slump as a filmmaker, particularly in live action endeavours. That’s quite a polite way of saying hat his recent output has been generally rather poor, but he’s back to his best with Dumbo, following on the triumphant trend of our favourite Disney animations coming back to life in a visually striking manner, utilising new technology in a visceral way and yet maintaining that distinctive sense of adventure that belongs to the studio in question.

Photo by Jay Maidment. © 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

We all have our own nostalgia-infused memories of watching Dumbo when we were kids. A classic piece of storytelling, it’s a perennial tale of the outsider, celebrating our quirks and idiosyncrasies. With a timeless message attached, it’s a film that most definitely has a place in a contemporary cinematic climate, and with the resources now at hand to create such a treat, aesthetically, you’ll hear no objections from us about this particular adaptation. Assembling a cast that consists of Colin Farrell (Holt), Eva Green (Colette), Danny DeVito (Medici) as well as a nefarious, almost pantomime villain in Vandevere, played by Michael Keaton, the tale has undoubtedly been left in safe hands while there’s also the exciting introduction for newcomers Finley Hobbins and Nico Parker, the latter a dead ringer for her mother, Thandie Newton.

DeVito, Parker and Farrell in Dumbo

There is a fear that this tale will be somewhat dark for younger audience members to fully enjoy, not just narratively speaking, but also just because of Burton’s trademark storytelling style, which is almost gothic in its approach. But the villain, played with a certain fervour by Keaton, has a playful edge; he’s nasty, but there’s a childlike glint in his eyes. An as for his hairpiece? Well, that’s worth the entry fee alone. But the film thrives most in being a visual spectacle. All shot indoors in a studio, the lack of natural light imbues the story, while it gives the film an animated feel, as though a nod to the original endeavour, for the sky is painted such a striking shade of blue, and everything feels so vibrant and vivacious as a result, which perfectly compliments the setting of a travelling circus.

How could you not fall in love with a baby elephant?

Burton hasn’t belied his sensibilities as a filmmaker, with no compromises made, instead utilising his brand, as his whimsical, creative sensibilities are beautifully married to the magic of Disney, to strike up quite a cinematic combination. So while there may be naysayers against the continuing culture of remaking old classics, when they’re as good as this, why should be deprive ourselves of them? It’s not just a mere money-maker, if the films are good, we ought to keep making them. Plus, this production is so emotive, and who doesn’t like a cry in the cinema? Just to clarify – I cried each and every time Dumbo flew into the air. An overreaction? Perhaps. But man it really was magical. Don’t judge me.

The face of a man who knows he’s made a good movie

Dumbo is released in cinemas on March 29th

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