DUMBO Review — A Circus of Wonder and Charm

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Dumbo Review — It’s all about the elephants, and director Tim Burton’s darkly charming vision.

Dumbo reviewThere’s a lot to love about Disney’s new live action film Dumbo, based on the beloved 1941 animated feature and directed by distinctive director Tim Burton. Just keep your eye on the elephants, and all will be well.

The elephants, you see, every one of them CGI, are truly magical. My friend the elephant rights activist actually asked me, “The elephants weren’t real, were they?” The imagineers at Disney have really outdone themselves. Dumbo himself is perfection, including those lovely big ears that everyone in the film seems to find appalling. He is mesmerizing, and even the most cynical among us want to see him first soar, and then find his mommy.

Yes, it’s another Disney film where parents are lost in the beginning. You know that going in. Dumbo, after all, was one of the original Disney characters to suffer that particular trauma, and in this version, it’s multiplied by two.

It’s when you look beyond the elephants that your wonder starts to waver.

The story is a bit murky, mostly because the characters and their back stories are regretfully underdeveloped. Danny DeVito as the ring master, Eva Green as a world weary showgirl, Colin Farrell as a father, WWI vet and former circus performer, still give it their all. Michale Keaton, as an exploitative uber producer, is at best undefined.

Also, a lot of weight has been put on the shoulders of inexperienced child actors, who don’t seem to have been given the tools to carry it. I wish Burton would have elicited a little more from them.

Still, even with those flaws, my overall reaction to Dumbo is one of enchantment. It’s a cinematic viewpoint unlike anything we’ve seen before, and an intriguing step along Disney’s path of live action versions of beloved animated films.

Rated PG

1 Hour 52 Minutes

If this Dumbo review makes you want to grab your kid and go, get times and tickets at Fandango.com.


Dumbo review — It’s all about the elephants, and director Tim Burton’s darkly charming vision.


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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

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