Dumbo 2019 | Movie Review

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🎥 Cinematography by Ben Davis

👗 Costumes by Colleen Atwood

🎬 Directed by Tim Burton

🎞 Edited by Chris Lebenzon

🎼 Music by Danny Elfman

📋 Produced by Derek Frey, Ehren Kruger, Justin Springer, & Katterli Frauenfelder

📝 Screenplay by Ehren Kruger

🌟 S T A R R I N G

💰 Alan Arkin as J. Griffin Remington

🤸🏻‍♀️ Benjamin “Bendini” French as a contortionist

🎩 Danny DeVito as Max Medici

🏋🏾‍♂️ DeObia Oparei as Rongo the Strongo

👨🏻 Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier

🐘 Edd Osmond as Dumbo

💋 Eva Green as Colette Marchant

👦🏻 Finley Hobbins as Joe Farrier

🎹 Frank Bourke as Puck

🐩 Jana Posna as a poodle trainer

👩🏼‍🍳 Jo Osmond as a cook

👨🏼‍🦳 Michael Keaton as V. A. Vandevere

🎩 Michael Buffer as Baritone Bates

🃏 Miguel Muñoz Segura as Ivan the Wonderful

👿 Phil Zimmerman as Rufus

👨🏻‍🦲 Joseph Gatt as Neils Skellig

👧🏻 Nico Parker as Milly Farrier

🐍 Ragevan Vasan as Pritam Singh

🐍 Roshan Seth as Pramesh Singh

🧜🏻‍♀️ Sharon Rooney as Miss Atlantis

👩🏻 Zelda Rosset Colon as Annie Farrier

🃏 Zenaida Alcalde as Catherine the Greater

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Disney remake number nine is Dumbo from 2019. I need to warn you that the original movie is one of my least favorite Disney movies because it makes me so darn sad & depressed. This was a very difficult thing to put myself through so bear with me as I navigate this review. This was my first viewing:

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 I was surprised there was no themed castle intro. I thought they might use a circus theme, perhaps the classic red & white striped tent instead of a castle. Maybe they tried, & it didn’t work. Who knows! 🤔

 Going into this live action remake, I was hoping the story might be a bit brighter. Unfortunately it started with a character named Holt Farrier coming home from the war without his left arm to care for his two kids & work in the circus after the death of his wife Annie. It was at this point, about four minutes in, that I knew the story was going to just as bleak or even more so than the original.

Roshan Seth, who plays snake charmer Pramesh Singh, is a familiar face in the Disney community, but you have to be well-versed in DCOMs. I recognized him right away because he made an appearance in one of my favorite Disney Channel franchises of all time. Ring any bells?? He played Uncle Kamal Bhatia in The Cheetah Girls: One World. Shout out to his character Pramesh who has a sweet, tender heart towards Dumbo! ❤️

 Dumbo is a rainbow amidst darks clouds in this movie, a breath of fresh air. I seriously cannot handle his blue eyes & baby mannerisms. He’s so stinkin’ cute, it physically hurts. 😭 💕

*Note: Dumbo is actually named Jumbo after his mom Mrs. Jumbo. Circus attendees nicknamed him “Dumbo” because he has a hard time walking without tripping over his ears. Jerks! 😡

 In both versions, Mrs. Jumbo is punished for protecting her baby from harm’s way. In the original, she saves Dumbo from kids who are bullying him because of his big ears; for her protective act, she’s chained up in a cage on the circus grounds. In the remake, she saves Dumbo from a rowdy circus crowd & an abusive elephant handler who ends up dead in  the chaos; she’s chained up & sold to save the reputation of the Medici Brothers’ Circus. It really isn’t fair when you look at the situation from a mama’s perspective. This opens up a conversation about animals belonging out in the wild, not in captivity as performers for human pleasure.

During the Baby Mine scene when Dumbo reached for his mama through iron bars, my heart broke, & I sobbed. When Dumbo cried as Mrs. Jumbo was taken away by men with whips, I sobbed even harder. His sad face in clown paint made me sob for a third time. When a car honked & Dumbo jumped out of the bath thinking it was his mom, I sobbed yet again. 42 minutes in, this story is just too sad for me. I hate it. I hate it so much!! 😭 😭 😭 😭

• Dumbo realizing he can fly is a happy moment, & yet I found myself smiling more out of relief than happiness. He’s initially seen as an ugly elephant who won’t make any money for the circus. It’s such a relief when he discovers his unique talent & earns at least a little bit of respect. That poor elephant goes through way too much in a two-hour movie. He’s just a baby! 😭

There are a few moments that genuinely lifted my spirits  & made me laugh: Max Medici soaking in a bath wearing orange slices on his eyes & a face mask, Rongo multitasking & going from strong man to drummer for the Big Top show, Dumbo defiantly turning his little elephant butt to Colette Marchant, & Dumbo lifting his ears to the right or left to match the flags held by the Farrier children. 😊

There are quite a few nods to the original film. Here are some of the references I caught:

The circus travels from town to town on the Casey Jr. train.

A stork lands on the train car before Dumbo is born.

One of the pet mice is wearing a tiny ringmaster uniform & looks just like Timothy Q. Mouse.

Dumbo can initially fly while holding a feather & later learns his ability doesn’t rely on feathers.

Some of Dumbo’s circus costumes come straight from the original: a baby bonnet, clown paint, & a headpiece embellished with the letter D.

Miss Atlantis the mermaid, played by Sharon Rooney, sings Baby Mine, & her voice is beautiful. I’m rewatching the scene right now & sobbing so hard it burns. Bad idea! 😭

At the first Dreamland show featuring the baby elephant who can fly, a vendor is seen selling Dumbo plushes. They look like the original Dumbo with his yellow hat & red & yellow collar.

The Pink Elephants on Parade scene is thankfully shortened to Dumbo watching the beginning of a Dreamland show & seeing the bubbles as elephants bathed in pink light.

When the Medici Brothers’ Circus is bought by V. A. Vandevere & added to his amusement park Dreamland, it’s revealed to be the place where Mrs. Jumbo ended up. During his first show, Dumbo hears his mama & runs away to find her. She’s chained up in an exhibit called “Nightmare Island”alongside other wild, dangerous animals; her new name is “Kali the Destroyer.” Not long into the reunion, Vandevere’s goons step in to break it up. Poor Dumbo just wants his mama & doesn’t understand why they can’t be together. So incredibly cruel! 😭

• The circus crew unites to rescue Mrs. Jumbo. Even after Dumbo gets his mom back, it still isn’t a happy ending because he rushes off to save the Farrier family from a fire. After all they’ve done for him, they’re his family too. He flies into the fire with a feather & water inside his trunk. When it’s time to fly out, he loses the feather & doesn’t believe he can fly without it. The kids encourage him that he’s always had the ability fly within him. He’s finally able to summon up the courage & fly, saving them all from the fire. After all that, Dumbo is once and for all reunited with his mama. I literally can’t see anymore because I’m sobbing AGAIN! 😭

The renamed Medici Family Circus is revealed at the end of the movie with a new “no animal captivity” policy. A mama & baby elephant weather vane is shown above the circus grounds, a tribute to Mrs. Jumbo & Dumbo who now live in the jungles of India. I love the message of that ending, but honestly it does very little to lift my spirits after a very grim 2-hour movie.

• Just to recap, this film dealt with animal abuse & captivity, bullying, a dead mother & broken family relationship, money troubles, war, & a war injury plus learning to live as an amputee. I think I covered it all. Heavy is an understatement. 😑

💬 Closing Thoughts: I went into this movie knowing I probably wouldn’t like it. On top of that, my love for The Greatest Showman has upped my standards for circus movies. Director Tim Burton has a very specific style, & it worked well in Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately it didn’t work for Dumbo because it was a dark aesthetic stacked on top of a grim story. Speaking of style, some of the visuals didn’t work for me, specifically the circus ground scenes in the beginning; it felt like the unsuccessful results of experimentation with multiple Instagram filters. The cast is incredible on paper but couldn’t make it work onscreen. Danny DeVito’s moments of humor weren’t enough nor the Farrier kids’ relationship with Dumbo. This adaptation is faithful to the original while also expanding the story & giving humans a bigger role to play. Basically the crew took a grim story, added more humans, & made the story even more grim. I gave it a chance because I wanted to like it, but there were very few things that worked so expect a low ranking. I’m sorry! I tried. I really did. 😔

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🍅 Rotten Tomatoes: 46% Critics | 48% Audience

❓ Original or Remake: Obviously I don’t like either, but I’ll go with the original because it’s shorter.

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Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NiYVoqBt-8

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🎥 Stay tuned for another movie review tomorrow! 🍿

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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