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Dumbo Movie Review

'Dumbo' Just Gets Off the Ground

"Dumbo" is the latest live-action reimagining coming from Disney, following in the footsteps of the massively successful "Beauty and the Beast" and "Jungle Book." It's clear at this point that Disney is going to work through their entire catalog because "Dumbo" is the first of three - three! - live-action reincarnations to be released this year ("Aladdin" is next up in May and "The Lion King" is due out in June).

There's certainly a bigger conversation to be had about the deluge of remakes (which isn't exactly the right word for what's being delivered but we will go with it for now) and their necessity, but "Dumbo" offers enough razzle-dazzle to justify its existence. Despite his spotty track record lately, director Tim Burton brings his storybook visuals to "Dumbo" and they leap off the screen, minus a few glaring CG issues with the elephants.

As far as the story goes, "Dumbo" opens in 1919, with Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) awaiting the return of their father Holt (Colin Farrell), who comes back from war with a chest full of medals and one arm missing. Now that he's back home, he needs work and reconnects with Max Medici (Danny Devito), who owns and operates the Medici Brothers Circus. Max no longer has the horses Holt used to train but introduces him to a pregnant elephant, who eventually gives birth to the big-eared titular character.

Milly and Joe spend the most time with Dumbo, as he tries to navigate his abilities, often without great success and with a lot of assistance from feathers. Dumbo has been separated from his mother and Milly and Joe's mother passed away while Holt was away, so they find some sweet commonality with their new elephant friend.

Once Max realizes Dumbo isn't just any ordinary elephant, he tries to maximize what he has to drum up business at his shows. He partners with the slimy V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton, quite bad as the mustache-twirling villain), who sees a lot of money in what Dumbo can do. Paired with French acrobat Collette (Eva Green), V.A. begins putting together a marketable show for his Dreamland attractions.

All of the circus business feels like noise around the heart of "Dumbo," which is stretched into a near-two-hour movie from its 64-minute original. Dumbo is the most interesting character in the movie because the emotional investment of the film lies within his ability to fly. We know that he can and we know that he will, but watching the CG baby elephant figure it all out is the joy of the story.

Listening to V.A. and Max negotiate their business dealings is likely to bore some - it certainly did for me - but Burton has put his visual storytelling to great use in a way that he hasn't in quite some time. There's no end in sight for Disney adaptations, but "Dumbo" is fine enough family entertainment to warrant a trip to the movies.



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