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Kevin’s Review of Dumbo 2019

Operation Dark Big Ears…

DUMBO (2019)

Let me start off by saying from the get go on even hearing of this film, I felt “meh” at best. It’s not the fault of Disney. I, maybe the ONLY one in the world, never cared for the 1941 animated Dumbo movie. While I was feeling “meh”, my wife, daughter, and step-mother were bouncing off the walls with excitement over the live-action version of the film.

As an avid lover of movies, I couldn’t pass the opportunity to see the new take, especially so when hearing that Tim Burton would be at the helm. I’ve been a fan of most Burton productions. There is a certain “feel” you expect from a film when you see Burton’s name associated with it. You expect it to be dark. From the trailer itself, I could see Burton’s influence on Dumbo. I won’t lie, it intrigued me. The 1941 Dumbo was vibrant and full of life. It had its darker scenes and as Disney cartoons go, it’s one of the darker. Seeing the cast that was attached to the project furthered by interest. Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, and Eva Green alone sets a darker expectation. Now receiving more information about this production moved my feeling of “meh” to a full blown interest in seeing just how Burton is going to pull this off. When digging a little deeper to prepare to write this review, I noticed that Ehren Kruger wrote the screen play. I honestly had to go look up to see if this movie was “inspired” by Disney’s 1941 Dumbo or was an actual Disney movie. Kruger is known for his work on The Ring, Arlington Road, the Transformers movies, and Reindeer Games. This is truly building up to an unusual conglobation of oddities for a Disney film. I do mean oddities in a manner of respect. Truly talented people are associated with this film, but not the typical ones I would have expected for a live-action Dumbo.

As is the norm for me, I do my best to go into a film with as little “expectation” as I can. I don’t want to go in with the bar set too high or too low. Watching a movie with an uneven keel will completely throw your opinion askew from the start and not give you a good review of the film. Even with the plethora of dark expectations the director, screen writer, and cast had given me, I wiped the slate clean as I stepped foot into the theater. What I found was a little bit surprising. Dumbo was very much a Tim Burton film. It was dark, it was grimy, and the characters were very much over the top and by over the top, I mean over the big top! What surprised me was that I liked it. Usually when you have these outlandish over played characters, it gets on my nerves. These didn’t. They actually seemed to fit the scene. It was done as an artistic expression of the story and not a result of bad writing or bad direction. This movie is not a shot by shot live action of the original 1941 cartoon and it didn’t need to be. There was a defined “bad guy” and a defined “hero”. There were heroic moments where the main characters had to overcome adversary by stretching beyond their comfort zone and do what needed to be done. Burton and Kruger took the Disney classic and made it a movie. The film did have a few places that I thought it could have been better. Some of the scenes that had potential to be a pretty big cinematic crescendos felt rushed. Some of the dialogue was a bit on the cheese side and seem pushed for a comedic response. While I love Alan Arkin and believe him to be an amazing actor, they really missed an opportunity here. The character he played should have been Christopher Walken! As far as the other actors, Colin Farrell was excellent as the war torn father returning to adversity and Eva Green played one of the most diverse roles I’ve seen her portray. She actually seemed happy and smiled. The children, played by Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, did a fine job. They are both relatively new to the acting scene, but I expect to see more of them in the future. As always, DeVito did an amazing job. This was his third time being involved in a circus role with Burton. I read in an interview with Danny, when Tim Burton called him for the role of Max, he told him it would be the completion of his circus trilogy. Keaton’s character of Vandevere was a throwback to the old days of the over the top bad guy. If this had been a silent film, he would have had a black waxed mustache that he would twist as he performed his dastardly deeds. Of course the star of the film was Dumbo. The CGI masters, did an excellent job bringing the beloved big eared elephant to life as a sweet, innocent, child, just seeking the approval and love of those around it.

Overall, it was an enjoyable movie. It paid enough homage to the 1941 version and stretched it legs enough to stand on its own. My 9 year old daughter loved it and I personally left the theater with a positive feeling and the joy of listening to her describe her favorite parts of the film, which is something I think you should expect to experience from any Disney movie. I rate this film, 7 out of 10! I plan on adding it to my movie collection as soon as it’s released on DVD/BluRay.

Good vibes for movie time, Kevin

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