CGI Elephant Soars Higher Than The Ratings: “Dumbo” Film Review

Uma Attreya

When people hear that a Disney movie is going to grace the big screens once again as a live action, they are bound to be excited; Disney has created a lasting impact on its audience, and any new project is always hyped up. One such project would be the movie “Dumbo,” which was directed by Tim Burton and released on March 29, 2019. “Dumbo” stars Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier, a war veteran returning to the circus to be with his family, which is comprised of his daughter Milly (Nico Parker) and his son Joe (Finley Hobbins). The Farriers work for the circus owned by Max Medici (Danny DeVito). V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) is a man who is looking to rule the entertainment industry


along with his girlfriend, Colette Merchant (Ava Green). The rich cast do well in their roles, capturing the essence of life in 1919, a contrast to the original “Dumbo” which took place in the 1940s. The CGI Dumbo is adorable, with blue eyes and floppy ears, but the visual effects are evidently the best part of this dramatic, predictable, and bland film that shows little adherence to the original plot.

The film starts off by introducing viewers to the scenery of the circus: people hustling behind the scenes, getting glammed up, training animals, and practicing their acts to create good shows for their audience. The circus is not thriving, and Medici, the owner, was looking for a new act to save the circus. He has former star, Holt Farrier, take care of a newborn elephant along with his kids, Milly and Joe. The elephant, known as Dumbo, is mocked for its overly floppy ears, and it brings more humiliation to the already struggling circus. Dumbo struggles to cope after being separated from his mother, a fact that connects him to the Farrier children since their mother died. However, when the children discover Dumbo can fly, everything is changed. The circus is a full house every day; everyone wants to see this incredible flying elephant. This attention to Dumbo draws an innovative and manipulative businessman, Vandevere, to the circus. His latest venture, Dreamland, is the showiest entertainment venue of all time. He recruits the circus performers, namely Dumbo, to bolster his amusement park. Dumbo literally soars to new heights, captivating audiences with Merchant, a graceful aerial artist. Not all is how it seems, though, since Vandevere is revealed to have an ulterior motive of solely exploring Dumbo and not needing any of the previous Medici circus performers. This, known to the audience but revealed to the actual characters later on, sends the plotline of the movie into chaos. With Dumbo flapping around in Dreamland as nightmares come to life within the park, the movie is overly dramatic with no substantial plotline or engaging factors besides CGI.


As a whole, the film was 112 minutes of predictability and flatness. With sudden bursts of color provided by Dumbo flying in colorful costumes, the film otherwise is colorless, lacking the spirit of the original Disney movie. The CGI Dumbo may have made hearts swoon, but the film did little to engage with the audience. The original plotline is centered around the revelation that Dumbo is a flying elephant, whereas in this film, that discovery has a couple scenes and is glossed over. The focus of this film is this new venture of Dreamland, rather than the lively flying elephant that we all hoped it would be. It falls short of capturing the true heart of a Disney a film, one that shows magic, possibility, and hope. There is a lot of commotion in the movie, and scenes of Dumbo’s initially hesitant but growingly confident flights are the only “magical” moments of this film. The simple and sweet tale of loving oneself and appreciating differences has been spun into an exaggerated, predictable story saturated with additional plot points that were not necessary. This film is consistent with the way Dumbo flew in it: flapping and flapping really hard to just get off the ground, soaring for a few seconds, and landing with a thump. As a huge fan of Dumbo, and Disney in general, I was disappointed with the way this movie was remade. The magic of Disney movies is that they are simple and carefree, not made to be more complex than they really are, and this movie made the character of the flying elephant as tacky as it was in Dreamland.

Overall, I would not recommend this film to any true Disney fans who adore the animated versions and their simplicity. This film is solely meant for children who know little to nothing about Dumbo. I think the movie is good if not compared to the original or the legacy of Disney, but when attached, it is the black sheep of the franchise. Disney characters are known pretty much everywhere, helping and teaching many positive lessons to children, and this movie does not showcase any such lessons. It is an easy watch, that is certain, but the CGI elephant flying is the only thing worth watching.