Dumbo – 2019
Walt Disney released its live action version of Dumbo in March 2019. Tim Burton directed this version. Tim Burton’s reputation for remakes is to have many twists in the plot and in the scenery. Tim Burton did this in Dumbo. This remake alludes to many of the elements in the 1941 animated film. These references to the original are cleverly done. Time will tell if this version will have the original’s staying power.
What the Live Action Dumbo Has and Doesn’t Have
There are no talking animals in this version. A mischievous monkey, Jumbo the elephant and her baby, Dumbo are only animals that show personality. It has a rendition of the song “Baby Mine” and an instrumental version of “Pink Elephants on Parade”. There is the line that mentions the different types of flies albeit it’s not done to song.
The setting for the movie is 1919. The faded circus signs indicated the circus is going through hard times.
Two children, Milly Farrier (Nico Parker) and Joe Farrier (Finley Hobbins), wait at the train station. Their father, Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), is a veteran returning from fighting in The Great War. He is wearing his captain’s uniform. He has two medals and is missing his left arm. His wife, and two other circus performers, died in the 2018 flu pandemic[i]. Before the war Holt and his wife had an equestrian act at the circus. Joe is talentless and Milly, who is intelligent with credible ambitions of a career in medicine, feels performing is below her. The circus owner, Max Medici (Danny DeVito), sold the horses so he could buy Jumbo the elephant. Holt’s new circus job is elephant trainer. Medici bought Jumbo because she is pregnant and he hopes a newborn baby elephant would be a box office draw.
Jumbo’s baby has enormous ears. Medici feels his dream of a box office boom went bust. He attempts to hide the ears for the opening parade. Medici also has his prop people make a cosmetic arm for Holt. Medici is concerned Holt’s missing arm would disturb people. The attempt to hide the ears fail and the crowd jeers the baby elephant. Jumbo, sensing her baby’s distress, goes on a rampage. She destroys the big top and kills a handler. Medici gets a partial refund for Jumbo but keeps the baby elephant, dubbed Dumbo.
Medici feels he can recoup some of his losses by putting him in a clown act. Holt, being the elephant trainer, has to be one of the clowns. Holt considers himself as hitting rock bottom by being a clown. The Farrier children found Dumbo can fly but the adults don’t believe them because they are children. A mishap and a daring action by Milly reveal to all Dumbo can fly.
Dumbo’s flight leads to fame but this presents a new set of problems for Dumbo and the circus people. There are some clever moves and brave actions to set things right. Many of the characters grow from their experiences. The movie, while not much on laughs, is good family entertainment.
[i] At the time it was dubbed “The Spanish Flu”. During the 20th century flu epidemics were usually named after places. The term “Spanish Flu” wasn’t used in the movie.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Robert Sacchi