By Cynthia Bujnicki
“A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.” —IMDB
Oh boy. Here’s the thing with Tim Burton, he is either a hit or miss kind of director, but his aesthetic is always amazing. Watching this film, it’s clear to see that this is a Tim Burton film because it’s so clearly him, weird and wonderful and strangely beautiful. That’s Tim Burton, recognizable, but he didn’t write this film, and maybe that is part of the problem.
Dumbo is the latest in Disney’s attempt to recreate the magic of their animated films. Again, even Disney has hits and misses. Dumbo is a miss, and it’s regrettable. The story, written by Ehren Kruger, missed something. At almost two hours the film feels empty. For a movie about Dumbo, there seemed to be barely any Dumbo in the film. It felt as though nothing happened in the film. The film is too eager to get to Dreamland, but it leaves out so much about Dumbo. He’s there in the movie, but then he is lost as the film focuses more on the circus people. That leads to another problem in the movie. While the film takes the focus away from Dumbo, it tries to focus on the circus people, but without the depth to properly grow the characters.
The cast is terrific, of course, but their characters suffer from a screenplay that is so stiff and stagnant, restricted seems to be the right word. The movie didn’t make good use of the time and stretched itself to thin to make sure to incorporate this whole cast. Dumbo is the cutest CGI elephant to come to the big screen, magical and enjoyable, the editors and special effects team did a fantastic job bringing him to life, but Dumbo doesn’t seem to be the star, the children do. Moreover, again, even they get little screen time. It’s hard to figure out where the film wants to go, if it wants to focus on the circus, on Dumbo, on the children and their strained relationship with their father. It pulls in too many directions, making poor use of the two hours it has been given.
There’s no denying that this film is sweet at its core and adorable, but it lacks substance. In the end, after two hours, it feels like nothing happened, like the movie ended before it even began. (★★☆☆ | C-)
Directed by Tim Burton
Screenplay by Ehren Kruger
Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures