So, I got the Disney+ thing. First thing I did, after seeing that they won’t have the Homeward Bound movies until May of next year, was sit the wife and me down and check out the 2019 remake of their beloved favorite, Dumbo. Because I sure as hell wasn’t going to pay full price to see it.
Dumbo (2019) is another in Disney’s series of wholly unnecessary and borderline offensive live-action remakes. This one isn’t offensive because of the crows; they’re not even in the new film. (I never found those crows offensive anyway; it was mostly guilty white folks who were bothered by it.) It’s offensive, because I am offended that they think the only way they can let new generations in on these classic tales is to redo them with technological hoopla. They regressed several steps further by shifting the focus from mute Dumbo and his motormouth mouse pal, to a single parent and his two nondescript kids. And for whatever reason, it takes place just after World War I (or “the war,” as it was known back then).
In the Medici Brothers’ Circus, Colin Farrell loses an arm and gains a southern accent to play Holt Farrier, former hotshot horse rider who’s just back from fighting for whatever WWI was about. Mom’s dead because of course she is, and daughter doesn’t wanna ride horses, she wants to be the next Madame Curie. She’s also some kind of animal whisperer. There’s a motley crew of sideshow acts who perform many other circus duties, mostly clerical, as well.
Oh, and there’s a hideously-deformed baby elephant. The crowd seems to be completely appalled that the circus would display such a monstrosity, but I don’t get it; they gave CGI Dumbo giant human blue eyes and such a cherubic face, he’s cute AF. I kept waiting for Mrs. Jumbo and the other animals to pull Dumbo aside and start talking to him, but these animals don’t talk. Though, Dumbo himself seems to understand English better than most human babies his age.
Once Dumbo takes flight (and a big-eared flying elephant does not translate well at all in live action; it looks as silly as you’d expect), the crowd instantly loves him, and the circus soon attracts the attention of a slick-haired businessman who’s an even bigger huckster than Medici. The last time Vandevere (Michael Keaton) and Medici (Danny DeVito) met each other in a Tim Burton film, the roles of good guy and bad guy were reversed, so that’s an interesting angle. Not interesting enough, though.
Dumbo (2019) is, thankfully, not a musical, so the crows’ hit tune doesn’t make it into the film. The closest they come to addressing the lyrics is an utterly cringeworthy cameo from Michael Buffer, who modified his signature catchphrase to… “Let’s get ready for Dumbo,” evoking enough forehead slaps to cause a sonic boom. And he says it twice.
The human interest aspect of the movie doesn’t work, because the humans aren’t all that interesting. The script is just plain bad. I was gonna give it one star, then Buffer said that stupid line again, and that cinched it. Dumbo (2019) is dumbo, minus the -o. One half out of five stars.
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