The CGI baby elephant is adorable as ever in “Dumbo.” Unfortunately, the film focuses on humans. (Walt Disney Pictures)

The CGI baby elephant is adorable as ever in “Dumbo.” Unfortunately, the film focuses on humans. (Walt Disney Pictures)

‘Dumbo’ unnecessarily flies again, thanks to Disney’s greed

Corporate profit-taking dictated that this so-so live-action version must be made.

We don’t need a new “Dumbo.” The original Disney classic, released in 1941, still delights audiences with its heart-tugging tale of a baby elephant who can fly.

But Disney wants you to have a new “Dumbo,” see? So you’ve got one. Strangely, the new film — almost twice as long as the original, and live-action rather than animated — is about the corporate greed of a company that strongly resembles Disney. Which proves once again that in 2019, irony is dead.

The other strange thing about “Dumbo” is that it shifts its emphasis from the lovable baby pachyderm to a group of less-than-inspiring humans. And there isn’t a talking crow in sight.

Dumbo, a cutie-pie with freakishly large (yet aerodynamic) ears, is born into a post-World War I traveling circus run by Max Medici (Danny DeVito in full huckster mode). A flying elephant is just what the struggling circus needs, and the star attraction is tended by a one-armed war veteran (Colin Farrell) and his children (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins).

A hostile takeover comes in the form of showman extraordinaire V.A. Vandevere (silver-wigged Michael Keaton), a fast-talking con man who installs Dumbo as the centerpiece of his glitzy new amusement park, Dreamland.

Is this place a little like Disneyland? Sure. But whatever the satirical intent of Ehren Kruger’s script, Dreamland just remains a generic setting for a movie that needs a shady backdrop.

With Tim Burton as director, “Dumbo” is a visual dreamland of sumptuous costumes and wild sets. As with Burton’s puzzling run of recent films, the actual business of telling a story seems not terribly important to him.

Maybe that’s why Dumbo himself (computer-generated, needless to say) remains on the sidelines of his own movie. Since Burton has little interest in the human heroes — the kids are stock characters and Farrell is playing nothing but niceness — the bad guys provide diversion.

There are a couple of scenes between Keaton and DeVito that get a cheeky buzz going, as two clever pros try to stir up some quirk. Alas, this movie has none of the head-snapping craziness of Burton’s “Batman Returns,” where they played Batman and Penguin together.

I wish Burton had given Eva Green (“Penny Dreadful”), cast as a trapeze artist, more to do. This is a rare example of the actress — generally cast as otherworldly femme fatales — being allowed a fetchingly human side.

The original “Dumbo” was rather emotionally harrowing, and this one adds terror, to the point where you wonder what audience Burton thought the movie was for. It’s a relief when we get a nod to the surreal “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence from the ‘41 film.

Disney’s program of raiding its back catalog will continue, as two more live-action remakes of cartoon classics arrive before the end of summer: “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.” Whether you need them or not. V.A. Vandevere himself couldn’t have planned it better.

“Dumbo” (2 stars)

A live-action Disney production inspired by the 1941 animated classic, with a flying baby elephant (computer-generated, of course) being seized by a crass showman (Michael Keaton) for his Disney-like amusement park. There’s not enough Dumbo in this slick production, even if director Tim Burton gives you plenty to look at. With Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito.

Rating: PG, for violence, subject matter

Opening Friday: Alderwood, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Blue Fox, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor

Talk to us

More in Life

CloZee performs during the second day of Summer Meltdown on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019 in Darrington, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
The psychedelic fest Summer Meltdown is back — and in Monroe

The music and camping event is on for July 28-31, with a new venue along the Skykomish River.

Gardening at spring. Planting tree in garden. Senior man watering planted fruit tree at his backyard
Bare root trees and roses have arrived for spring planting

They’re only available from January through March, so shop early for the tree or rose you want.

Veteran Keith F. Reyes, 64, gets his monthly pedicure at Nail Flare on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 in Stanwood, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No more gnarly feet: This ‘Wounded Warrior’ gets pedicures

Keith Reyes, 64, visits a Stanwood nail salon for “foot treatments” that help soothe blast injuries.

Photo Caption: A coal scuttle wasn't always used for coal; it could hold logs or collect ashes. This one from about 1900 sold for $125 at DuMouchelles in Detroit.
(c) 2022 by Cowles Syndicate Inc.
Coal scuttles of days long gone by now used for fire logs

This circa 1900 coal scuttle is made of oak with brass trim, and sold for $125 at auction.

Enumclaw, the band
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Most of these venues require proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or negative… Continue reading

Does this ring a “Belle”? Storied anime writer-director Mamoru Hosoda’s newest resets “Beauty and the Beast” in a musical, virtual environment — among other modern twists. (GKIDS/TNS)
‘Belle’ is striking virtual reality riff on ‘Beauty and the Beast’

In it, ‘Beauty’ is the charismatic online avatar of a moody teenager that attracts the attention of a bruised and brooding Beast

"Redeeming Love"
Movie review: ‘Redeeming Love’ doesn’t yield cinematic riches

The story, about a sex worker “redeemed” by a folksy farmer in Gold Rush-era California, is creepy “tradwife” fan fiction.

Eggs Florentine
Baked Eggs Florentine: A brunch favorite inspired by a queen

The kitchen manager at Quil Ceda Creek Casino shares a dish that pays homage to a spinach-crazy 16th century monarch.

This easy-to-make spinach and mushroom quiche is perfect for a light dinner or fancy brunch. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)
Gretchen’s table: A spinach-mushroom quiche with cheesy goodness

The savory egg custard baked in a pie crust is easy to make — especially if you use a refrigerated crust.

Most Read