Disney’s live-action ‘Dumbo’ is a visual treat, but the cast is underwhelming [Movie Review]

Director Tim Burton's live-action remake is less sad than the 1941 original, but still makes plenty of reference to that classic

Nicola Chan |

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Eva Green stars as Colette Marchant in 'Dumbo'.

Directed and reimagined by Tim Burton, the Dumbo live-action remake is a sad but heart-warming fantasy adventure story about Disney’s magical flying baby elephant.

Former horse-riding circus star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns home from serving in the first world war and begins working at Max Medici’s (Danny DeVito) travelling circus.

Holt and his two children, Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins), are asked to care for and train a newborn elephant, called Dumbo, which has been separated from his mother Mrs Jumbo soon after his birth.

A peek behind the scenes of Disney’s latest remake of a classic

After the kids discover Dumbo can fly by flapping his ears, the run-down circus is revitalised, attracting the attention of massive crowds, and also V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), an entrepreneur who hatches a plan to make Dumbo the main attraction at his theme park’s circus.

The plot of the 1941 animated classic is expanded to depict the intimate bonds between Dumbo and the Farriers, but many iconic scenes have been lovingly recreated to ensure it does not stray too far from the original. And of course, the flying baby elephant is extremely adorable and realistic.

Another piece of good news for Disney fans is that the modern adaptation is a lot less cruel and traumatic than the original, although the production team ensure that human cruelty and greed remain important aspects of the plot.

Thanks to the beautiful cinematography and colourful, vibrant costumes and set, Dumbo is a visually-pleasing spectacle. However, the acting and circus stunts - mostly performed by Eva Green (who plays Dumbo’s circus act partner Colette Marchant) - are not particularly impressive.

In addition, Parker’s performance as Holt’s precocious daughter, a child with an old soul, can at times seem awkward or unnatural, as her behaviour and musings seem way too mature for a child of her age.

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The revamped plot is fairly predictable as well, but that doesn’t take away from the charm of the slightly surprising yet uplifting ending.

Less heartbreaking than its original, this latest live-action Disney production is a simple, sweet and exciting retelling of a classic.

Edited by Jamie Lam