June 18, 2019
Street Date 6/25/19;
Box Office $114.03 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for peril/action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language.
Stars Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins.
With a running time of just 64 minutes, Disney’s original 1941 animated classic Dumbo is a bit thin on the source material required for a full-bore live-action remake.
To pad out the details, Disney turned to screenwriter Ehren Kruger, veteran of several “Transformers” movies, and director Tim Burton, who previously directed 2010’s Alice in Wonderland for the studio.
The end result is a remake that is equal parts reimagining of and sequel to the original classic.
The core of the story still focuses on the baby circus elephant named Dumbo who learns to use his oversized ears to fly. After his mother is locked up for aggressively defending him from the crowds picking on him for his large ears, he yearns to reunite with her.
However, whereas the bulk of the original film dealt with Dumbo learning how to fly and building his confidence, in the new version he figures out how to fly relatively quickly. Instead of a mouse to handle him, he is looked after by returning World War I veteran Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his two young children, and soon becomes a star for the small traveling circus run by Max Medici (Danny DeVito).
Dumbo’s exploits gain the attention of entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who offers to buy out Medici in order to make Dumbo the headliner of his circus-themed amusement park, Dreamland. Meanwhile, the children hope to use Dumbo’s earnings to find his mother and bring her back to him.
The Vandevere storyline gives the film the air of self-parody, as his theme park is clearly an analog for Disneyland. What’s more, the plot turns on a corporate merger in which the smaller company is to be swallowed up and the bulk of its staffers laid off — a detail rife with parallels to the Disney-Fox merger that was completed shortly before this film hit theaters.
Keaton playing the slimy businessman is also a bit of a switch from his pairing with DeVito in another Burton film, 1992’s Batman Returns, in which DeVito was the one playing the bad guy.
These are clever details for what is ultimately a kids movie, and while Burton’s visual flair and penchant for oddity may amuse adults in the audience for a time, the film mostly settles in as a piece of inconsequential family fare that should keep younger viewers entertained.
Hardcore Disney fans can also take it to the next level in searching for the many subtle references to Disney history, particularly the 1941 film, layered throughout. To this end, the Blu-ray includes a four-minute “Easter Eggs on Parade” featurette.
Other featurettes include the eight-minute “Circus Spectaculars,” featuring interviews with the cast and filmmakers; “The Elephant in the Room,” a six-minute recount of the process of updating the story of the animated film; and “Built to Amaze,” an eight-minute look at the film’s production and costume design.
The Blu-ray also includes nine deleted scenes running eight minutes in total; a two-minute “Clowning Around” gag reel; and a “Baby Mine” music video featuring Arcade Fire’s update of the Oscar-nominated song from the original film.
The digital copy of the film available through Movies Anywhere and select digital retailers also includes a breakdown of the creation of the Dreamland parade sequence.