I never watch the original Dumbo cartoon. I only know that it is the shortest Disney's cartoon with run time of merely 64 minutes and it has the racism issue with the crows. I did not really get the hype from the promotional materials as the CGI Dumbo looks rather scary: not as cute as the cartoon version and not as realistic as real elephants. Nonetheless Dumbo has a special place in my heart as it is one of my childhood plushies and that is my main reason of watching this live action version.
I think this live action Dumbo (subsequently I will just refer it as Dumbo) successfully adopts and modernises the story. Initially I was expecting the increased roles of the human characters will dilute or even destroy the overall focus on Dumbo. Fiuh.. thank goodness the human characters actually help to drive the plot without ruining the overall story.
The overall theme of Dumbo is faithful to the original cartoon while it expands on certain parts to make the movie have more adventurous slant. Instead of having Dumbo flying for the sake of flying, Dumbo is given a motivation: fly so that the circus can earn money to buy back Mrs Jumbo. Although things get bigger and seem to get messier at the Dreamland (is this meant to be a subtle poking at Disneyland), the main purpose of reuniting Dumbo with Mrs Jumbo stays. Thus I think the adventure part of the movie is a nice touch to make the movie more interesting to watch while still staying true to the overall theme of the cartoon. I am also impressed with the ending as Mrs Jumbo and Dumbo are back in the wild to be with an elephant herd. I find that a forward thinking and modern move instead of going to the direction of animal-human bond and Dumbo stays at the circus.
The homage to iconic elements of the cartoon is also done tastefully and believably. Few examples are the circus performance of burning building and Dumbo flies to spray water and extinguish the fire, the 'magical' feather (here Dumbo needs the feather to sneeze to initiate his flight), the pink elephants sequence (here Dumbo is not drunk but the pink elephants are part of the circus bubble performance), and Timothy mouse (albeit is just an 'easter egg').
Sadly Dumbo falls apart with the failure of exploring the human characters. The bonds between the kids and Dumbo and subsequently between Dumbo and Colette (the trapeze artist who rides Dumbo) are not explored. The bonds and trust are established within a few scenes which is not believable. Similarly with Holt and his kids, from the beginning until the end of the movie, I do not feel any development in their relationship as a family. The Medici circus' unity at the climax at the movie also does not come naturally as we never feel that they are that close bonded to begin with. The biggest loss is for Timothy. Timothy is such an important friend of Dumbo in the cartoon and here they are only in one scene together with no interaction. Yes I know elephants and mouse do not speak in real life but why cannot they be friends? I mean at least to live together and to play together or something.
While I am glad the live action does not ruin Dumbo, I think Dumbo is quite a bad movie relative to the previous Disney live action remakes. I never watch the Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland but I kind of enjoyed Beauty of the Beast, Maleficent, and Cinderella. Dumbo is more on the 'meh' part which is a huge wasted opportunity as animal-human stories always have the potential to be heartwarming and amazing.
And to close this with an even emo mood, I miss my Dumbo plushie that my mum 'threw' away. How could she send it for dry cleaning but forgot to collect? T_T My heart hurts every time I remember this as it feels like a part of my childhood is gone. It has been 9 years and yet it still hurts.
|Bye my Dumbo. I hope you have found your wildlife jungle too T_T|