Elephants can fly, 3.5 readers.
BQB here with a review of Disney’s latest remake of one of its classic cartoons, Dumbo.
This was always going to be a hard sell because the original Dumbo from the 1940s did not age well. It was about a little elephant with big ears and everyone made fun of him because he was different and was essentially a tale about how kids shouldn’t do that to other kids, somewhat woke or its time.
But then again, Dumbo also had friends, one of whom was a crow who was a stereotypical caricature of an African American named Jim Crow after the laws that kept African Americans down at the time. He was also the BFF of a mouse who he got accidentally drunk with only to hallucinate and see all kinds of crazy shit in a fever dream montage so…yeah. I know that montage scared the crap out of me as a kid.
Also, though the anti-bullying message holds up, the elephant’s actual name is Dumbo in that people just called the little guy dumb and it stuck and no one thought to change it so he could have some self respect. Oh, and circuses don’t have elephant shows anymore because somewhere along the line we decided as a society that it was uncool to watch live animals get paraded around and forced to do drinks for our amusement.
Ergo, Disney had a lot, and I mean a lot, to change here, so much so one wonders why they didn’t just leave this one to remain in the vault next to Song of the South.
In this version, Colin Farrell plays a soldier who returns home from WWI without an arm…and oh, by the way his wife died while he was there and also his children were being raised all the while by the circus performers he used to perform with as a trick shooting cowboy. So, yeah, a lot of misery straight out of the gate.
Danny DeVito is the ringleader and the circus is struggling as times are changing. Blah, blah, blah, enter baby Dumbo who everyone hates at first because he has big ears but then it turns out he can fly, so the moral of the story really hasn’t changed i.e. don’t be mean to kids who are different because one day they might turn out to have special skills that make them rich and famous and they’ll leave you in the cold but uh…if they don’t have any skills and just have to go through life with a deformity then….it’s ok to make fun of them I guess?
Oh well. It’s not perfect. Blah, blah, blah, long story short, Dumbo is discovered by an evil, big corporate theme park owner played by Michael Keaton (Apparently, no one at Disney saw the irony). Devito is scammed into giving up his intellectual property rights to the elephant (No one at Disney saw the irony) and when Dumbo is separated from his mother, he bands together with Farrell, the kids, and a French acrobat (Eva Green) to burn the big corporate theme park to the ground so Dumbo and his Mom can return to India and Devito can create a new park where performers are treated well and their dignity isn’t sacrificed on the altar of the almighty dollar (No one at Disney saw that irony.)
Sidenote – actually, Dumbo just escapes but in his rage at being bested, Keaton’s character accidentally burns his park to the ground but ok, enough spoilers for this review.
STATUS: Borderline shelf-worthy. The best that probably could have been done to remake a movie that didn’t hold up over time. The irony is that the original and the remake are both critical of how the entertainment industry sacrifices performer dignity, chewing them up and spitting them out, just sucking the money out until the next big thing comes along and uh, maybe uh, you know, in that line of thinking, Dumbo could have been left to the history books, stuff that cartoon fans could have watched with a modern critical eye but the remake to suck more money out of it could have been skipped.
Because at the end of the day, despite all the wokeness that was crowbarred into a story that was not woke the first time around, some Hollywood somewhere decided that the elephant still had to be called Dumbo and couldn’t get a new name because, you know, it isn’t cool to call the elephant dumb. You couldn’t call it Jumbo and still get the fan recognition ticket sales. Oh well. Michael Keaton’s character wins.