In 1941, Disney proved that being different can help one soar to new heights no matter what the bullies say with the release of the animated film Dumbo. Now, nearly 80 years later, a live-action remake comes to town and, along with it, a potentially darker plot.
Something to take the grandkids to see? Let’s investigate.
The new Dumbo, set to be released March 29, will be light years away from what Uncle Walt gave the world many years ago – a few cartoon characters and an uncomplicated plot line. In today’s cinema world, that 1941 version just wouldn’t fly (excuse the pun).
Now director Tim Burton (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas) has re-imagined the iconic elephant with computer-generated imagery, and he’s surrounded him with a star-studded cast including Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton and Danny DeVito.
Farrell plays Holt Ferrier, a former circus headliner who returns home from war a damaged man. He and his two children are hired to care for Dumbo by circus owner and ringmaster Max Medici (DeVito). Due to his freakishly enormous ears, Dumbo has become the
laughing stock of Medici’s second-rate operation. But Holt and the kids soon learn that those same ridiculed ears offer the baby elephant a chance for success in life.
Entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Keaton) imagines Dumbo as a headliner in his new entertainment venue called Dreamland, a place where a shiny veneer can hide dark and unsavory secrets.
Along with Vandevere, circus aerialist Colette Marchant (Eva Green) and Wall Street mogul, J. Griffin Remington (Alan Arkin), all manage to push their way into Dumbo’s world when they also foresee star potential—and piles of cash—in the precocious pachyderm.
With the inimitable Tim Burton behind the camera, you know that this Dumbo is going to be a little eerie, a little dark, probably a bit melancholy. Add in the fact that Ehren Kruger, who wrote or co-wrote such sophisticated fare as the Transformers sequels, Scream 3 and the first two The Ring movies, is the writer behind this screenplay, and you may be more inclined to invite your hip teenage grandchildren to accompany you to the film than the younger set.
This time around, Dumbo offers no sympathetic Timothy Q. Mouse and, mercifully, no trash talking, racist crows. But whatever Burtonesque touches do make their way into the new feature, the touching tale is still guaranteed to yank at viewers’ heartstrings.
You may want to take along some pocket tissues if you go – as well as some for those hip teenage grandchildren.
Just in case.