Disney’s new live-action Dumbo is now in theatres, and my kids and I got to see an advance screening earlier this week.
Like many, I had seen the animated classic as a kid, remembering it as a sweet, magical film, especially the sad scene when Dumbo longs to be with his mother as she is locked in a train car for defending him (cue the tears!). So I was open to what the movie would be. I didn’t know whether to expect a recreation of the exact story or something different.
It was largely the same story but of course, with real-life changes. There was no talking mouse, but it’s just as kid-friendly as the original.
Directed by Tim Burton, Dumbo stars big names Danny Devito, Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, and Eva Green. Colin Farrell plays a former circus star, Holt Farrier, who returns from serving in World War 2 to his kids Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), and to the struggling circus he left, run by circus owner Max Medici. He then cares for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughing stock, until Dumbo shows that he can fly and the circus makes an incredible comeback.
This gets the attention of the rich entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the entire circus to his entertainment venture, Dreamland.
Here, Dumbo performs with a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), and Dreamland is revealed for what it really is.
The first third of the movie is a bore, but picks up dramatically with Dreamland, which is a place so lavish and over-the-top that it truly is only something you would likely see in dreams. Then just watching the rest of the movie is exciting and worth your theater ticket.
So here’s what I liked and didn’t like. (And warning – I’m going to be very honest here.)
LIKE: The movie is put together well, and the computer animation was excellent (much of the movie, including the elephants, was animated). The costumes, the makeup, the special effects, and the references to the original (like the Casey Junior Circus Train) were all a plus. And there was nothing about the movie that was too scary for the kiddos, or too sad for the grown-ups who remember the original! (So don’t worry, you probably won’t be balling during the mom and baby elephant scene.)
DISLIKE: Overall, however, I felt that this movie was for the most part, forgettable. As I’ve said in other reviews about many other more recent Disney films, the special effects and “visual” aspects of the film drown out the soul and memorable value.
In addition – and this is my main complaint about the movie – the acting of Nico Parker, who played the main character’s daughter Milly, was the worst acting I’ve ever seen.
Granted, she’s a child (currently 14 years old), and she was acting with an elephant that wasn’t really there, as it was completely computer animated. Plus, her character wanted to be a scientist someday, so there was a bit of a grown woman in her character’s personality.
But as the child and actress that she was, I swear there was absolutely no life in her, except for a few smiles, especially toward the end. She truly was as bland, uninteresting, and robotic as an actress could be. She spoke her lines like an amateur who was just reading the words off a page as quickly as possible to get them over with. I couldn’t even catch all the words she said – they were so “prepared” when they came out of her mouth, it was like gee, she knew what the other person was going to say or something. And the media is raving about how identical she is to her real-life mother, Thandie Newton, as if her appearance was enough to give her fame. I didn’t even know who Thandie Newton was until this movie, but it seems clear how Parker got this acting gig and it wasn’t talent.
Ok that was harsh – but I have to be honest that Parker’s acting brought the movie down for me. I wanted to scream at the screen “Wake up! Show that you’re alive! You’re a kid!” I just know that Disney is and should be better at casting.
My rating: I’d probably give this movie 2-1/2 out of 5 stars. My kids liked it as it was a fun adventure. You may like it too. But it didn’t have the Disney “spark” I had grown up with.
I have some FREE printable coloring pages and activity sheets for you here! Just click on each image to open it as a PDF in a new window and print!
Dumbo Coloring Sheet:
Dumbo Coloring Sheet #2:
Dumbo Connect the Dots:
Dumbo Elephant Facts:
Dumbo Print and Play Stickers:
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