As I said in my review of Tim Burton’s Dumbo on Tuesday, I mentioned that it’s been a while since I last watched the animated version. It was definitely when I was a child because I didn’t feel weird about the crows. Something I didn’t bring up in my review. Not because I don’t think it’s problematic: I do. But because I didn’t see what more I could say on the issue that hasn’t already been said. Yes, there is a Jim Crow reference in the middle of the film. Yes, it’s clearly bad. But it happened over 40 years before I was born. Of course, it’s going to make me uncomfortable. We should just be grateful that there was no attempt to make that scene fit into the live action remake. There was already a lot about Tim Burton’s film that stressed me out without coming face-to-face with his interpretation of Disney’s racist past.
I definitely watched Dumbo when I was younger but I can’t say that it was ever one of my favourites. I don’t think I ever really rewatched it. Of course, I remember the adorable elephant because it’s the cutest creature to come out of any Disney film. I remember the clown scene, the song, and, obviously, the flying. My memories of the film were that it was a really sweet but not very exciting film. We were more of a Lion King and Aladdin family. So, I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the upcoming remake as I have been with some of the others. Besides, I’m a huge Tim Burton fan. I even liked his reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. Although, I never saw the second one so I might hate that. Still, I was excited by the first look at this film. It had a great cast and it looked fantastic. And, with the dodgy history of this film, making it a bit darker or creepy. If nothing else, it’s 2019 and the idea of keeping elephants captive to perform in a circus is not exactly great.
We all know the story of Dumbo, right? Tiny elephant with massive ears who learns how to fly. He becomes a star and lives happily ever after. Although, in Disney’s latest live-action remake, Dumbo isn’t even the star of his own film. For whatever reason, the decision has been made to give the film a human face thanks to Colin Farrell and his motherless children. Farrell plays Holt Farrier who has returned from the war with one less arm and one less spouse. Holt and his wife were the equestrian performers in the Medici Brothers’ Circus before Holt was called to serve in the army. Whilst he was away, his wife died from Spanish flu leaving his children in the care of the circus owner, Max Medici (Danny DeVito). Unable to go back to his old act, Holt is given the task of caring for the circus’ newly acquired elephants.
It is the baby elephant that Max hopes will pack the punters into the circus but they turn against him when his massive ears are revealed. Thankfully, Holt’s children discover that he has a special talent. They encourage Dumbo to fly in front of an audience and he quickly becomes a star. But all Dumbo really wants is to rejoin his mother who was bought by the villainous V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton). Can Holt and his family save the pair before they become another attraction in Vandevere Dreamland?
I’ll be honest, I remembered Dumbo as being a sweet and charming tale about a flying elephant. I know there were some sad moments with his mum and everything but it was mostly nice, right? Tim Burton’s Dumbo made me feel stressed. There were so many awful moments. The bullying of Dumbo by the audience was so extreme. The scene with the fire was way over-the-top. Everything just seemed to be ramped up to cause as much stress as possible. I don’t wish to sound melodramatic but I was on edge through most of the film. Which would be fine if that was the point. But I don’t think it is. This isn’t a film that is trying to play up the horror elements that Burton is known for. It just feels cruel in points. Unnecessarily.
Cruel and a wasted opportunity. We know from films like Edward Scissorhands that Tim Burton knows how to make great films about weird outsiders trying to find a place in a supposedly civilised society. Dumbo should have been the perfect film for him to remake but, unlike its main character, it never quite gets off the ground. It’s weighted down by so many extra plots and distractions. There are too many characters, which means that nobody gets the development that they need. The CGI elephant is cute and all but you don’t care about him in the same way as the original. There is too much focus on Colin Farrell and co. But even they aren’t given any depth. Everyone just feels like a stock character who is only there to fill space in the frame.
And the story itself feels like it’s just rushing to get to where it wants to be. There isn’t enough build up before we first see the elephant fly. It all happens so quickly and then we’re racing off to a weird futuristic theme park. I know the original Dumbo wasn’t much longer than an hour but they’ve stretched the story so much you can basically see through it. And then there’s the weird message at the centre of the film about the exploitation of big corporations. Considering we’re watching a Disney film this feels kind of disingenuous and jarring. There’s too much going on and you get the impression that Burton wasn’t able to make the kind of film he wanted. The visuals are all beautiful and the cast is, mostly, great. But the script is messy and cluttered. And there’s just not enough Dumbo.
I know that I liked The Incredibles but I really don’t think I have that same sense of nostalgia that a lot of people I know have for it. I was 16 when it came out so I was probably trying to appear too cool to give a shit about Pixar films. I definitely wasn’t but I was going through a phase. So, as good as I think the film is, it was never one of my favourites. I certainly wasn’t as emotionally invested in the sequel as I had been for Toy Story 3 or Finding Dory. Which is weird considering how much I adore superhero films in general. But, I have to admit, that every time someone was getting super excited about the new release I quite often had to fake enough enthusiasm to keep myself on par with theirs. I was excited but this wasn’t the film of my youth. Maybe I’m just spending too much time with younger people? Maybe I should have re-watched the original more recently? Who knows. I was excited enough to watch the damn thing. Plus, I’m always down to watch a Pixar film.
My aim was to see this film the Sunday after it first came out. That was already after two of the least discreet people I work with had already seen it so I was still skirting on dangerous spoiler territory. Unfortunately, my plans fells through and I was forced to wait until the Saturday after that before I found out what I’d been desperately waiting 6 years for. That was so many days where I had to hide from spoilers. By that point the vast majority of my colleagues who were ever going to see it had seen it and there was the added threat of the entire fucking internet. I’ve already unfollowed people on Instagram because they were flirting with spoilers. I couldn’t go on Facebook or YouTube without there being some sort of reference to the film that I had to ignore. And don’t even get me started on my misguided decision to check out Buzzfeed one night before bed. Nearly every article had something to do with Infinity War. I managed to get away with only having one thing confirmed to me and it was something I had guessed (and was secretly hoping would happen). It’s something I want to discuss on a different post because I feel this should be entirely spoiler free… if only to prove I’m better than the people I no longer follow on social media. Be the change you want to see in the World and all that. I’m pretty sure Gandhi was talking about movie spoilers, right?
You find me writing this Sunday Rundown in an unusually good mood today. Even though it’s already after 11pm and I’m only just starting to write this. But I’ve always enjoyed the pressure of a deadline drama. The reason I’m so positive today? I’ve spent a lovely chunk of it eating amazing food and spending time with wonderful people. As I’ve made abundantly clear on this blog already, I’m turning 30 in just over a week. As part of the ongoing celebrations some of my work-friends and I went to a Michelin star restaurant for lunch today. It was so wonderful that I don’t even care how unproductive I’ve been. Head to my Instagram for some sensational (even if I do say so myself) example of food porn. Maybe this whole “turning 30” thing won’t be that bad after all?
This has been a tough weekend work wise if I’m honest. It’s been super stressful so I’ve been avoiding reading. Well, I’ve managed to do some reading but it’s not been great. I still haven’t finished War Horse which I started this week with the intention of finishing before I saw the stage version. Even though I didn’t manage that I absolutely adored the play. I mean, I was in floods of tears but it was exquisite. So well realised and mesmerising but, also, so good at capturing the real consequences of war. It was so much more meaningful and powerful than Steven Spielberg’s film version. He completely lost his way with that film and I spent most of my time laughing. I really hated that film and, if you’re interested, you can hear more of my rants in my review from 2012 here. Continue reading
I never saw Oliver and Company when I was a kid but I remember seeing the trailer for it whenever we watched a Disney film on VHS. Every time I saw it I wanted to watch it but it never happened. Probably because I’d get too distracted by whatever Disney film I was going to watch. It always looked really fun and, as someone who loved dogs, I was obviously into the idea of Oliver Twist being remade with animals. I mean if The Lion King has taught us anything it’s that taking a piece of great literature and retelling it with animals is a great strategy for storytelling. I mean who’d even heard of Hamlet before Disney introduced us to Simba, right? Plus, there is a whole host of Disney films that prove that dogs and/or cats having adventures together is an instant winner. I’m not a big fan of Dickens anyway so I couldn’t imagine how it could get any worse by involving household pets.