Doug (vo): Well, you know my thoughts on the Disney remakes and how there's way too many of them and how every time one comes out, I just want to go insane, and, well, now we have Dumbo, one that did not get very good critical reviews and also didn't get a very good audience reaction, and...yeah, I can see why. I mean, it's not like it's a big mystery. But...I...almost...liked this one. Now, keep in mind, the word is "almost". It's still not a good movie. But, at the same time, there are some elements in it that...made me glad I checked it out. I know. I know that sounds insane, 'cause the bad elements in it are really bad, but the good elements in it, I really found myself kind of getting sucked into. Sometimes, I even thought, "This is what a Disney remake should be like." (Sighs) No, I haven't gone nuts. Let me explain.
Doug (vo): The story centers around a soldier, played by Colin Farrell, who returns home to his two beautifully wooden kids with only one arm. This is devastating, as he wants his job back at the circus, but with only one arm, he can't do the stuff he used to. The ringmaster, played by Danny DeVito, insists on giving him every chance he can, though, trying him out at different jobs. Around the same time, Jumbo gives birth to a little baby elephant named Jumbo Jr., or eventually Dumbo. As you might've heard, he has really big ears, which everybody goes, "What are those? Big ears? At a circus? What?" Okay, to their credit, they already say they have enough freaks in the freak show, so this would be distracting. Regardless, the crowds don't react well to him, and his mother tries to protect him, resulting in her getting locked up and sold off. It's eventually discovered, though, that Dumbo can fly with those big ears. Yep, this happens in the first third instead of the last third. And the owner of a theme park named Dreamland, played by Michael Keaton, says he wants to buy Dumbo for his latest attraction, as well as incorporate the rest of the circus, giving them a new home. The ringmaster agrees, but when Dumbo discovers that his mother is at Dreamland, well, things get complicated...kind of stupidly complicated. He ruins a show because he hears his mother, and so, he flies towards her. The solution is to...get rid of the mother. What the hell are you talking about? Just release the mother, have them be together. Hell, have the mother in the same room as him so he can fly around better. This is such an obvious solution! But, nah, they just kind of need bad guys, and we need good guys to rush into burning buildings, and Dumbo to fly, realizing he doesn't need the feather, and, yeah, pretty much everything you'd think would happen in a film like this happens.
Doug (vo): So, all right, sounds pretty lame, and...yeah, I guess it is. But there's several elements of this movie I found myself surprisingly enjoying.
(Footage focusing on the film's visual style and production design is shown)
Doug (vo): A lot of that comes from the atmosphere. And I know what you're thinking. It's a Tim Burton movie, he always has pretty good atmosphere, but he doesn't always. Sometimes, he'll have good visuals...oh, hell, most of the time, he'll have good visuals...but it's not always atmospheric. This one really is. Look at those backgrounds, look at the lighting, look at the reactions on these characters. Even the music by Danny Elfman, I've kind of made fun of he hasn't made that big of an impression on me lately, but this music is really great. I feel like all of this kind of comes together to create this really visual storytelling.
(Footage focusing on several characters is shown)
Doug (vo): I like how they're trying to figure out where to put Dumbo, so they try him in different jobs and stuff, Colin Farrell is going through the same thing. And because the animals don't talk, you can really see this connection between the two of them as being outcasts. I like the community that kind of forms around these circus folk, too. They have these distinct personalities that, okay, aren't fantastic, but I still believe them as a big group. I love when the snake guy gets angry, so he just kicks over the snakes to attack the people. I like the acrobat, who definitely has a sleazy side, but kind of has a good side, too. I like how loving DeVito is as the ringmaster, I like how sympathetic Farrell is. I legit found myself caring about a lot of these people.
(Clips focusing on the Farrier kids, Milly and Joe, are shown)
Doug (vo): The ones I don't care, sadly, are the main characters, these two kids. You've probably heard over and over they are so flat, and...yeah, they really are, distractedly so. Maybe because I had warning going in, I didn't pay as much attention to it, but, yeah. Whenever they talk, particularly the girl, it is really off.
(A scene showing the Farrier family and Dumbo witnessing Mrs. Jumbo being sent away is shown)
Milly: What's happening? Where are they taking her? Dad, please stop them.
Joe: Do something.
Milly: Mom would've done something.
(A clip from Mars Attacks! is shown, showing President James Dale (Jack Nicholson) reacting in disgust)
James Dale: Yikes.
(Back to Dumbo)
Doug (vo): And I don't blame them. I mean, Burton has had a long history of choosing people that have these deep sunken eyes, but not always the best acting. When he does get good actors, it's great. He seems to really like people who are odd-looking, and for whatever reason, people who are odd-looking, a lot of times, are good actors. But whether it's the director or the casting agent, this clearly didn't work.
(Some clips showing the film's antagonist, V.A. Vandevere, are shown)
Doug (vo): I'm not exactly sure what Michael Keaton is doing with this performance either. I mean, I always like watching him, he's super-entertaining, but it seems like his voice keeps changing, and he doesn't always have a very distinct character.
(Clips focusing on the main character, Dumbo the elephant, as well as the film's version of the "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence, are shown)
Doug (vo): Dumbo himself, though, is pretty likeable, and like most of the effects, he's not really convincing, but he is very charming. I feel like in a lot of Burton movies, the effects don't have to look real, they just have to look good. And Dumbo looks good in this, as do a lot of the weird images you would expect to see in a Tim Burton movie, including a "Pink Elephants" sequence that, yes, a lot of people were warning me is nothing like the original, but I kind of expected that. You can't really get Dumbo drunk, and, yeah, where can you fit a scene like this in this kind of movie? But it's still a weird, trippy scene, and, yeah, it's kind of pointless, but again, I kind of like the music, I like the weird bounciness of it. It's hypnotizing in a way.
(Various clips resume showing, along with two images of the original animated feature)
Doug (vo): Perhaps the biggest problem with the movie is that Dumbo, let's be honest, was already a Tim Burton movie. It's kind of like Alice in Wonderland, it's already a Tim Burton film, the only thing that can ruin it is Tim Burton. He likes his visuals, he likes his outcasts, but outside of that, he doesn't really care much about the written word, or, half the time, even the story. So it's tricky, 'cause on the one hand, I could see myself really enjoying this film if I, oh, put it on mute. Yeah, I know it sounds strange, but if they treated this like a silent film with just the music and the visuals and we had to kind of guess what was going on, I may actually really enjoy this film. It's essentially the same story as Dumbo, but it's just different enough. The animals don't talk, and things happen in a different order, and it still has a beginning, middle and end. Again, I kind of feel like this is what Disney remakes should kind of be doing. But it's not a silent film. It is one where you have to write dialogue that has to be convincing or charming, and that's not what we get here.
Doug (vo): So does it work? No. But am I happy I saw it? Weirdly, yes. And not in a "it's so bad, it's good", I mean the good elements are so enjoyable, I wouldn't have regretted seeing this in the theater. But, yes, the original is clearly better, and if you're gonna be really distracted by really flat, hokey acting and predictable stories, then this isn't gonna be the movie for you. Usually, it's not the kind of movie for me. But with the music and the backgrounds and the lighting and the atmosphere and the cinematography, I don't know. Those elements surprisingly grabbed me. Enough to say it's good? No. But I guess like Dumbo himself, I did take more out of it than I expected to.
(A shot of the film's version of the "Baby Mine" scene of Dumbo seeing his caged mother is shown)