This film is a remake of the 1941 classic about a young elephant, born with oversized ears that serve as wings so he can fly.
The original Disney version was an animated film. Here we have a live action production with real people and a good share of CGI material — including the flying pachyderm.
Dumbo starts off with a series of scenes showing the main characters in the plot and their relation to each other and to Dumbo. The time is 1919, after the great war in Europe. Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) returns to the United States, greeted by his two children, Milly and Joe. Holt has lost an arm in combat and it is questionable if he can return to his career as a stunt rider in the circus.
Max Medici (Danny DeVito) is the owner of the circus, struggling to hold it together in tough economic times. He takes Holt back to help train and maintain the animals in the troupe.
One of the elephants, Jumbo, a large female elephant has just given birth to a male offspring. He is named Jumbo, Jr. and he is laughably unattractive with huge ears. He learns to fly, to his enjoyment and to the amazement of the people in the circus. Max’s show becomes more successful with the flying elephant, renamed Dumbo.
Max and his show are visited by V.A. Vandervere (Michael Keaton), the owner of a massive showplace that combines stage productions, circus acts, amusement park facilities, etc. (sort of like Disneyland).
He is accompanied by his beautiful companion, Colette Marchant (Eva Green). She is an aerialist, flying with hoops and ropes. She takes to Dumbo and rides him as he flies around the arena.
Vandervere turns out to be less than honest and less than a good man. He separates Dumbo from Jumbo and he orders other unpleasant actions. Here is where we are nailed to our seats with the suspense and unpleasant Vandervere activities.
Holt, Colette, the kids and the Max’s entire troupe are soon at odds with Vandervere. Even Dumbo takes part in the struggle and he learns to work with the humans to outsmart the outed villain. Dumbo displays his emotions with facial expressions and subtle eye movements. He responds to requests and commands from the two kids, Milly and Joe, as if he understands English.
The visual scenes in Dumbo that show circus acts and acrobatics and big production musical numbers are outstanding and spectacular.
Dumbo is a film that will please young viewers and the drama, well known for good versus bad people and a happy ending, is a familiar format. It is worthwhile for the story, the updating of the classic, the visual treats and the performances by the characters.
Dumbo is at Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.