DUMBO - THEN AND NOW
One of the joys of grandparenting is that you get to see all the kid flicks which, today, are some of the best movies being made - or remade.
Disney released the animated Dumbo in 1941. It was a short 64 minutes long and Disney made it far less lavish than its 1940 release, Fantasia. In spite of the turbulent times (released just 6 weeks before Pearl Harbor) Dumbo went on to be Disney's most profitable film of the 1940s.
The plot is pretty simple with the kick being that Dumbo, a baby elephant with huge ears, is separated from his mother, Jumbo, and comes to befriend a very smart mouse. Eventually, Dumbo is able to fly and, of course, becomes a sensation and is reunited with his mother. The original Dumbo is a delightful movie that has just enough magic in it to re-awaken the child in all of us. Essentially, it is about friendship, self-confidence and the joy of being who you are.
And that brings us to the new Dumbo, directed by Tim Burton, written by Ehren Kruger with an all-star cast including Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green and Alan Arkin. Somehow, the new Dumbo tries to bring in all the elements of the original Dumbo but in a live action movie instead of an animated one. At first you might think that is impossible, but the magic of CGI should never be underestimated. Dumbo stumbles and falls and screams and flys!
It is a beautiful movie, as many Tim Burton films are - but there the comparisons with the original end.
This Dumbo is much darker - did we mention that Tim Burton directed it? Having Colin Farrell as the lead puts a shadow over the whole enterprise (even when he laughs he seems sinister) and then add the fact that hIS character lost his right arm in the war and this Dumbo is markedly different looking than the watercolored Disney original.
And there are new plot twists, like an evil Keaton who cons a gullible DeVito (I think that is a first for a DeVito character) into a partnership so Keaton can get his hands on the flying elephant for his big, brash amusement park on Coney Island. Did you ever think you would see a Disney movie that decries big, brash amusement parks?
Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito are excellent as usual while Alan Arkin is totally wasted in a throw-away roll as a soulless banker. Eva Green (Casino Royale, Penny Dreadful) plays 'the woman' in the movie so while she starts out on the side of darkness, she must change in order to provide some romance for Farrell who has two kids who lost their mother .... really, this is supposed to be a kids flick starring a one-armed malcontent somewhat violent widower.
And for all of that, it's not as bad as the critics have made it out to be. Hey, it's tough to totally screw up a movie about a flying elephant.
Directed by Tim Burton
Screenplay by Ehren Kruger
Starring Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Ben Davis
Edited by Chris Lebenzon
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios
Running time 112 minutes
Playing at many local theaters