I can’t really say the original Dumbo was ever a childhood favourite of mine, but I didn’t dislike it. Portions of it were quite moving and the visuals were often astounding.
And while the visuals this time are occasionally astounding, they’re servicing an emotionally vacant plot that’s simultaneously overstuffed AND threadbare. Which I didn’t think possible until today.
Look, I realize that I’m not the target audience for this film – it’s aimed squarely at young children despite being pretty miserable – but I still enjoy seeing a well-made kids movie. This, to me, is not well-made.
It has a stellar cast including Danny DeVito, Colin Farrell, Eva Green and Michael Keaton – but none elicit any real connection, which leaves the bulk of that work to young Nico Parker who plays Milly. And I’m certainly not going to throw a child under the bus, especially when the real culprit is a script which completely misses the concept of “show, don’t tell” by insisting on telling you EVERYTHING, often through Milly.
The circus sequences are sometimes gorgeous and in the first such instance I was briefly wowed by the spectacle, but director Tim Burton dials back his signature style to the point where it rarely elevates that spectacle to anything more than a quick “that was kind of cool” moment.
Which is a shame, because the potential for true spectacle is certainly there. For me, though, this one never gets off the ground.