Set aside your skepticism and see this emotionally rewarding little film. And even you cynics should bring some tissue with you.
To begin with, ignore the several critics who are downplaying this fine movie. Incredibly, they did the same thing in the last two years with Bohemian Rhapsody, The Greatest Showman and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and they once again demonstrate that they should be seeking other employment. I can only implore you to ignore them for reasons that will become all two obvious when you buy a ticket.
Tim Burton’s Dumbo builds momentum in the same way that the Space Mountain ride does at Disney World. You settle into your seat as your roller coaster slowly climbs its initial hill only to quickly absorb an emotionally thrilling experience that will leave you grinning with some wiping wet eyes as you reach a conclusion that you will cherish.
Danny Devito plays Max Medici, the owner of a struggling circus trying to financially survive. The film takes place in 1919 as Holt, a former stellar horseback rider, returns from World War I missing his left arm. An early powerful moment of the film takes place when Holt embraces his young son and daughter at a train station. The agony of that moment is increased when you find out that Holt’s wife and the mother of his children died of influenza while Holt was away in Europe.
The original Dumbo was released by Disney in 1941 and as a result nearly everyone knows the story. It centers on a baby elephant with extraordinarily long ears that astonishes everyone by demonstrating that it can fly. The story itself devolves into a competing struggle between two circus organizations to see who can financially benefit from Dumbo’s ownership.
While kids will be immediately attracted to this film, I must note that it is an adult film given its dramatic impact. To begin with, Danny Devito gives his best performance in years as a man trying to keep his circus a viable business. While he is a caustic employer, he wants to do all he can to make sure that his circus employees are able to make a living pursuing the job that they love.
However, the most emotionally powerful moments of this film center on the simple impact of family. With Dumbo, he is left crushed when his mother is sold to another organization. The scene where they join trunks as Dumbo’s mother is locked into a railroad car recreates the moment that nearly everyone can recall from the original film.
But the focus on family goes beyond that moment. Collin Farrell is wonderful as Holt, a man who tries to reestablish a relationship with his two children as they all wrestle with the loss of a wife and mother. They all begin to rediscover the joys of this existence by trying to help Dumbo do the same thing. The little elephant joins them in that quest, and I am at a total loss on how certain critics fail to capture that magnificent moment.
What also adds a significant impact to the film is the appearance of a man named Vandimere and his beautiful assistant Collette. Vanimere is the owner of a larger circus organization who proposes to buy out Mr. Medici in order to gain control of Dumbo. Michael Keaton does a great job playing Vandimere, and you quickly suspect that lurking under his kind approach to the circus is a guy without a soul.
In addition, Eva Green gives an excellent performance as Collette, a high wire performer who is supposed to link up with Dumbo as he flies. Collette’s obligation to Vandimere gradually collapses as she becomes attached to both of Holt’s children as well as Dumbo’s future. And if you are asking “Who is Eva Green”, then hunt her down in Dark Shadows (2012), 300: Rise of an Empire (2014), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014), and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016).
The film functions as an emotional magnet as you watch Holt’s children’s dedication to reuniting Dumbo with his mother. Unexpected moments of high tension are created when lives are left on the line, and it makes the film all the more admirable.
While I won’t give away the ending, it will either have you crying or joining my two dear friends that accompanied me to this film by mocking my emotional response. You know that one way or the other, the characters are going to have to say goodbye to Dumbo and you only hope that everyone can be rewarded with him once again joining his mother.
Go buy a ticket and enjoy that moment.