Film Review – Dumbo

Dumbo (G)

Directed by: Tim Burton

Starring: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Eva Green

Two and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Disney brings its beloved tale of a flying elephant back to the big screen with a live action film, plenty of special effects and star power in front of and behind the camera.

In 1919, equestrian performer Holt Harrier (Colin Farrell) returns from the war to find the circus he works for financially struggling, his wife dead and their two children full of resentment.

With the horses sold off, Holt is left to look after the circus elephant, who births an offspring with oversized ears.

At first the newborn is deemed an unappealing freak of nature that will do the circus no favours, but it is soon discovered the baby elephant can fly.

Dumbo 2019 certainly looks great: the visual effects are amazing, it is a slick production and Dumbo is appropriately adorable. But visual effects that all the money can buy cannot conjure heart and soul, which this remake lacks.


In creating a live version of its own property, Disney is uninterested in taking any risks, sticking to what is safe and likely to rack up the most box office receipts. There is a sense of simply playing up to nostalgia here.

As Tim Burton has delivered box office gold in recent years, it is clear why he was hired to direct, and yet he seems to be stifled creatively here.

His distinct signature style leans towards the dark, edgy and loopy (Batman, Beetlejuice), but Dumbo 2019 is so vanilla that it feels like it could have been made by any up and comer that is happy to work under creative restraints.

Every decision feels so incredibly safe that it is hard to imagine anyone becoming emotionally involved in the story or getting choked up like they would have during the original animated classic.


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