Disney’s Dumbo is fun. This is a film not just for the kiddies. Dumbo brings out the inner child in all of us. The 2019 version of Dumbo is a remake of the 1941 version of the movie with the same name. Like many Disney movies, there are is always a storyline surrounded by something to root for.
This time, it’s the tiny, newborn elephant with the big floppy ears. Everything about Dumbo, big ears and all, makes you want to grab and hug the little darling that can fly. With the good guy formulated in the form of Dumbo, there wouldn’t be any type of suspense without the villain.
Michael Keaton, known for his quirky, on edge and present-form roles in Beetlejuice, Batman Returns, and RoboCop, fills that bill quite nicely. In fact, Keaton knocks his role out of the park as a tongue-in-cheek, demanding but the shady owner of Dreamland, a place where dreams aren’t always dreams. Keaton’s villainous character is a dramatic reversal of the sweet, puppy love that Dumbo presents to audiences.
How Keaton’s character V.A. Vandemere and the loving Dumbo become interwind with one another, is a story that began through a myriad of happenstances surrounding the struggling traveling circus that Danny Devito’s Max Medici character runs. Much like the dinosaur, traveling circuses are almost a thing of the past, nothing but a nice memory to hold onto.
Running short on miracles and top talent and interesting acts that will galvanize or generate buzz and money for his down-and-out entertainment center, Medici pretty much knows his circus is on its last legs when the legend of Dumbo comes alive and saves the day.
But before that can happen, we’re introduced to Milly Farrier (Nico Parker) and Joe Farrier (Finley Hobbins), two lads trying to make up lost time with their war-torn father, Holt (Colin Farrell), who fights a private battle of not only losing one of his arms during wartime engagement but must continue his life without his wife as well.
It’s a trying time for the circus, but Holt, a former stunt horseman, is quickly indoctrinated back into the life before he went off to war. After losing their mother, Milly and Joe are searching for something to makes sense in their lives. The circus, to them, does not makes sense. Milly would rather dabble into science rather playing and toying around the many animals that roam around the circus trailers.
That ambition catches up with Milly when Mrs. Jumbo surprises everyone at the circus with a newborn. The buzz and excitement would soon dissipate when Dumbo comes out and is unveiled with his two gigantic ears. Medici’s glee disappears into frustration while Milly and Joe feel a depth of empathy for the baby elephant.
While everyone else is dismissive of Dumbo and his perceived liability, the brother and system tandem see the new addition to the circus as something good. They just didn’t know how good. And wouldn’t you know it, the circumstances leading to Dumbo becoming the Flying Elephant is nothing more than a case of curiosity.
Dumbo turns his intrigue of feathers into a blowback exercise with him going airborne for a fleeting time. With her scientific mind running at 100 miles an hour, Milly catches this unlikely endeavor and wants to see if this is for real for what she thinks it is. With Joe, Milly goes through with her little experiment to get Dumbo to show her what he previously did.
It works, and before you know it, Dumbo is gliding through the air with his propeller wings called ears. But when children see or know something, convincing adults can be a pretty difficult task at times. So, when Milly and Joe try to persuade their dad to believe their story, it is met with reluctance at first. For parents, seeing is believing. Holt’s trepidation, however, turns into belief.
Medici’s eyes light up like a Christmas tree when he sees Dumbo flying through the air for the first time. He now has an act that will revitalize his dying circus. And just like that, Medici and his traveling circus become the hottest ticket in town, with Dumbo and his high-flying act at the center of attention for tourists. When success comes, so does antagonists, disbelievers and those wanting to hop on the financial train while the money and attraction are hot.
Word of the high-flying Dumbo somehow makes it to the ear of Vandemere, who is determined to have this flying elephant to add to his collection of collectibles at Dreamland. Part of his collection is the lovely acrobat Colette Marchant, played by Eva Green. Somehow, Vandemere convinces Medici that it would be in the best interest for him and his circus to join his team at Dreamland.
Medici bites and his entire world, as well as that of the circus, is turned upside down. Dreamland becomes a nightmare for the circus crew and soon Medici regrets his partnership with Vandemere. Mrs. Jumbo gets shipped out leaving young Dumbo behind as Dreamland becomes an unforgiving place to work. Fun becomes a bit of an overrated experience and seemed to have seeped out of the Dumbo as well as Milly and Joe.
But the road traveled back to happiness comes when Vandamere’s sinister plot to permanently get rid of Mrs. Jumbo comes to light. Holt, Milly, Joe as well as the rest of the crew get in on the act to save Mrs. Jumbo as they try to vacate the premises of Dreamland. The results are worth waiting to see.
Throughout Dumbo, the film travels with speed and provides a lot of light and funny moments, though the tension between father and children is evident at times as it relates to a parent trying to make good with his family.
The biggest connection from the film is that of the family with the maternal instincts of Mrs. Jumbo and the paternal outreach of Holt to overcome being an MIA dad while he was serving time in the war. Then there is Dumbo. He is just like the rest of us and wants to be loved. Getting his momma back is a lot more important than flying through the air and entertaining folks.
But if that is the avenue it takes to reunite Mrs. Jumbo and Dumbo, the floppy-eared elephant becomes more than game.