When I first heard about the series of live action remakes that Disney plans to create, I felt like someone was trying to rewrite my childhood. That being said, after watching the recent remake of the classic “Dumbo,” I felt like the famous Disney magic and wonder that made the original films so popular was alive once again.
The story of the curious big-eared elephant that can magically fly has drastically evolved beyond that of its 1941 original. The focus of the film, rather than being on Dumbo himself, is on a human father and circus performer, Holt Farrier, who has recently returned from the war to his two children. Holt and his wife were the main act in the Medici Bros. circus. While deployed, Holt lost two things: his left arm during the war and his wife to influenza while he was away. She was not the only one that passed due to influenza as many of the other performers of the Medici Bros. Circus did as well.
With the circus on its last leg and Holt looking to support his family, ring leader Max Medici, cleverly played by the reliably hilarious Danny Devito, purchases a pregnant elephant named Jumbo. The elephant gives birth to Jumbo Jr., soon renamed Dumbo and deemed a freak by elephant handlers due to his large ears. After an accident occurs with Jumbo, Medici sells the mother elephant, and the Farrier children use the situation to encourage Dumbo to fly in the circus to earn the money needed to buy back his mother.
The beginning of the film consists mostly of exposition, which makes the start feel slow. The purpose is to get the viewers invested in the world of the movie and the characters. As soon as Dumbo is introduced, luckily, the movie picks up and its charm starts to show. The CGI and visuals take over in full force, and everything looks and moves realistically even to the point that Dumbo flying does not look fake. The characters also win viewers over, and their interactions are some of the strongest parts of the movie. Even though the majority of the characters are basic cliches, whether it be the disconnected father or rich evil guy, they all bring that classic Disney feeling of bad guys and good guys, and it works to the film’s advantage. I do feel like some of the charm that came with the classic “Dumbo” was lost when the animals were reduced to a non speaking role but that is an acceptable change due to the new style of the Disney remakes.
Dumbo is the first Disney movie I have seen in theaters in quite a while, but it feels like a return to form for the mega corporation through every stage of the process. I expected to come and watch a cash-in on a classic, but instead I found a surprisingly heartfelt and fun film experience in “Dumbo.”