Dumbo is a film with heart, soul and everything else in between. There are some very macabre moments when your heart is literally in your mouth and moments when you are jumping up on your seat with the pure joy of just being a part of the magic. A faded pastiche of times gone by set in the 1920s with World War I having just ended and a tiny circus in trouble, the film takes giant leaps and bounds in its authentication and research. From crackling paint on weathered wood to prototype house robots, the road to an uncertain future is revealed in the struggles of wiley showman, Max Medici, brilliantly played by Danny DeVito, and a motley team of circus performers trying to keep the show on the road. Colin Farrell, Holt, is the returned soldier with one arm who used to ride the show ponies and can no longer do so. He returns to a daughter interested in all things scientific and a son who is still trying to find himself but in complete awe of his sister. Their mother has died and they have no-one but their father to take care of them.
Into this mix, a new elephant arrives, bought by Max. The elephant is expecting and there is no-one to take care of it, so Holt is given the job. It has ears long enough to fly which drag on the ground every time it moves. It is the children who realise Dumbo’s full potential and the daughter, specifically, who discovers that all it takes is a simple feather to make Dumbo fly. The baby elephant soon becomes famous and the Medici Circus soars on his success. It is not long, however, before Dumbo becomes too famous and plans are afoot to exploit him. Vandemere, played by Michael Keaton, runs a slick “Dream World’ operation which seeks to make millions out of the little circus with the baby elephant that flies and Dumbo finds himself part of an elaborate trapeze act with the divine Colette played by Eva Green.
Tim Burton’s direction gives this Disney classic a new shine and morphs it into a world of modern concepts. So many metaphors and analogies to be explored on so many levels. The villain of the piece, Vandemere, being representative of developers who have no respect for family values, the natural order of things or rewards for hard work, but who simply trample over the little people to get what they want, is dry and focused only on the money. The use of the name ‘Medici’ too is inspired as the ‘Medici’ family once ruled Italy with their greed and lust for power. So there is potential from the beginning for ‘The Medici Circus’ to do the same but this never happens as love wins the day and Max helps save the day. This is a Disney masterpiece with something for everyone. Dumbo is adorable and Danny Elfman’s music could make anyone fly.
Reviewed by Renee Lou Dallow