Sloppy and grim, Dumbo takes a rather clumsy flight

Published: April 13, 2019
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Tim Burton has sadly removed the talking animals from the original and replaced them with a bunch of useless humans.PHOTO: IMDB

Director Tim Burton and screenwriter Ehren Kruger’s new version of Dumbo is the latest to get a live-action remake. It is inspired by the 1941 Disney animated classic and based on the original fable written by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl in 1939. Burton is the one who started this trend of remakes with Alice in the Wonderland. The film stars Colin Farrell, Deni DeVito, Michael Keaton and Eva Green in pivotal voice-over roles.

The 1941’s Dumbo was a soft, simple and adorable fantasy centred on the tale of friendship and maternal love, the tender bond between Dumbo and his mother. The film was about Jumbo Junior, a baby circus elephant with giant ears that cause him to be harshly nicknamed ‘Dumbo’ but astoundingly his ears allow him to fly. Hence, the film had some heartwarming messages of inclusion, affection, compassion and believing in one’s self.

Photo: IMDb

Although the 1941 film was mostly acclaimed for its imagery and tone rather than the storyline, it still left enduring emotional wounds. Hence, there was a lot of space and scope for the new-age film to be expanded, explored and developed. In spite of the film being an hour longer than the previous one, it fails to capture even the required essence.

Photo: IMDb

The irony is such that though the original film was animated, the intense pathos was indeed intact. However, despite having the visuals effects and live-action, the emotional distance can inevitably be felt because it is devoid of the required emotion.

Burton has sadly removed the talking animals from the original and replaced them with a bunch of useless humans. Perhaps, as a result of CGI characterisation, Dumbo’s character is heavily dependent on its human characters to reflect the emotional intensity. This leaves less screen time for Dumbo’s actions as his character doesn’t talk unlike the humans. And unfortunately, the performance of human characters is wooden and unimpressive and they fail to carry the emotional weight. With actors failing to invest their characters with integrity and Dumbo’s character lacking essential disposition considering he is the titular character, the film is incapable of being emotionally resonant with audiences.

Photo: IMDb

The use of vibrant hues, textures and lighting along with the props, setting and special effects are conveyed impeccably to give that sense of heat, freneticism, anguish and distress emanating from the circus. Thus, the collaboration of production designer Rick Heinrichs, cinematographer Ben Davis, and visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers, deserves notable credit for the entire spectacle. Besides, in addition to Dumbo’s facial expressions and actions reflecting empathetic qualities, “Baby Mine” scene in the film is quite heartrending.

Photo: IMDb

Regardless of the grandiosity, large scale and verve that the film portrays with exciting imagery, it clearly misses a gripping narrative. It does take the audience into the vivid realm filled with creativity, colours and gritty sets owing to the visual imagery but the writing and plot is so sloppy, unfocused and grim that it is unable to provoke the thrill and excitement in the viewers.

Photo: Disney

The themes like death, pain, exploitation, cruelty and bigotry are there but the film is still not compelling enough as it lacks the tone, spirit and heart of the original one. Burton’s film is patently bloated, drawn out and ornate and the script is pointless and slack.

Photo: IMDb

Therefore, the film Dumbo takes a rather clumsy flight.

Mehrooj Rai

Mehrooj Rai

The author lives in Lahore and is studying English Literature from University of London. Writing is her passion and it gives her an opportunity to not only escape but create her own world of ideals and notions. She tweets @mehrooj_rai (twitter.com/mehrooj_rai)

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