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‘Dumbo’ Review: A Painful Remake Devoid of Happiness and Heart

Dumbo Review

Disney’s latest live-action remake, Dumbo, does anything but soar. The remake of the 1941 animated classic arrives on the big screen with no soul or heart to offer fans looking to relive fond memories of their childhood.

Chances are you know the story and likely saw the original animated version. But in case you aren’t familiar with it, Dumbo tells the story of a young elephant who has oversized ears. Those ears enable him to do the impossible – to fly. This unique talent helps him to save a struggling circus, and when it does, a new venture presents itself. But this new opportunity is far from what it seems and brings some rather dark secrets to light.

Dumbo Movie Trailer

It’s been a while since I had seen the original animated version. And I have to admit I wasn’t a huge fan of that version either. Even as a child, the lack of understanding, compassion, or love showed by the adults in the film filled me with an incredible amount of anger. Seeing this poor little elephant separated from his mother and bullied for his appearance, it wasn’t a story that was child-friendly to start with. And then you add in moments like “Pink Elephants”… And then suddenly songs like “Baby of Mine,” which would be fine in any other movie, end up giving me chills in a not good way.

Dumbo Is Not A Kid’s Movie

So I wasn’t a fan of the original, but I didn’t hate it. I HATE Disney’s new Dumbo. And for those that have read my reviews before, you know that I rarely feel so strongly towards a movie. So why the strong emotions here? I’ve described the feelings that the film left me with as 75% anger and 25% creeped out. Not only have they taken a movie that didn’t tell a great story for children from the get-go, but somehow they’ve made it less appropriate for today’s youth. And along with it, robbed endearing memories from fans of the 1941 classic.

Dumbo Review
Dumbo Review: Cute Meets Creepy

Movies for kids should be light, heartfelt, funny, cute, and offer hope for the future. I mean these are kids. They shouldn’t have to grow up yet. If we can protect them from the harshness of the world for just a little while longer, shouldn’t we do that? I feel like if you take a child to see this film, you’re going to age them 20 years. They’re going to be introduced to the cruelty of human nature and the darkness of the world far before they should be. These elements from the 1941 classic are exaggerated here – and emphasized even further by a terrible script.

I’m not saying children movies should be all happy-go-lucky – I mean look at Pixar. Pixar films almost always hit an emotion that makes us cry. And they illustrate the beauty of life not being perfect, but they do so in a way that ultimately creates hope and happiness. They have heart. By the time you get to the happiness of Disney’s Dumbo, you realize you’re only sensing a feeling of happiness because the credits are rolling and you get to leave the theater.

My rant of why this isn’t a children’s movie is over. Let’s talk all the other reasons that this film is one of the worst films Disney has ever made.

It’s obvious that Tim Burton likes to tell stories about misfits. But his talent does not include the ability to do so with a children’s classic.

Dumbo Review – All the Problems

Clearly, I’m not a fan of the overall story. But the real issue here is the script and character development. The dialogue is painful, the plot has gaping holes in it, and there’s not a single character that you’re rooting for – aside from Dumbo.

The kids in the film are fine, but my main issue there was how the girl, Milly (played by Nico Parker), was treated and portrayed. We get it, Disney, you’re trying to make this character socially relevant. She’s a young female and likes science. If Disney wanted to do this character right, they would have had to make the science here cool. Not only did does Disney make it dark, but they also managed to completely fumble an opportunity here to inspire young girls to want to geek out how cool science is. Literally, no one supported this girl and her interests, and the fact that her love of science played a very small hand in saving the day is completely swept under the rug.

Not that it would have helped, but there are no original songs here either.

The acting isn’t noteworthy, the cast did what they could with this script. That being said, the performance of Michael Keaton is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. There’s a number of scenes in which he has completely pointless dialogue that serves no purpose other than make you utter, “huh?” and look your watch.

Dumbo Review – What the Film Does Right

The CGI is cool? I guess? It continues to intrigue me how something so cute could also be so equally creepy at the same time. But that’s really the only natural thing I have to say about this film.

To sum it all up, Disney’s live-action remake of Dumbo is a terrible film that should have never been made. If we’re going to go back through all the Disney movies that would have made better live-action films with an adorable animal lead… I’m just going to present the obvious answer – Oliver and Company. Dumbo was never a happy movie to start with, and somehow Disney managed to make it even darker in this remake and ruin anything endearing the original film had to offer. Here’s hoping they don’t do to Aladdin what they did here, but that requires hope… And this film snatches any feelings of hope and leaves you with a massive dose of anger with a side of creepy CGI.

Dumbo Review

Grade: F

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