Sunday 20 October 2019

Tim Burton’s Dumbo remake: What the critics say

Tim Burton has directed the new version of the much-loved classic.

Dumbo has been remade by Tim Burton (Disney Enterprises/PA)
Dumbo has been remade by Tim Burton (Disney Enterprises/PA)

By Sherna Noah, Press Association Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Dumbo’s big-screen remake has left many critics underwhelmed.

Tim Burton has directed the new version of the 1941 animation about the elephant, with enormous ears, who can fly.

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw gave the live action film, which has a CGI Dumbo, just one star, saying the story had been “painfully detusked”.

He said the remake “makes a mess” of the famous scene in which Dumbo’s mother hits out with her trunk at bullies before she is imprisoned.

“The performances from Colin Farrell, Eva Green and Michael Keaton are stuck on the autopilot factory setting of grinning, mugging, frowning and smirking.”

And he wrote: “Reasonable… moments are cancelled out by boredom, as the pointlessly complicated and drawn out story grinds on to its tiresome conclusion.”

In the Daily Mail, Brian Viner gave the movie two stars.

He wrote: “Today’s computer-generated imagery cannot make an elephant fly quite as convincingly as a team of clever animators could almost 80 years ago.”

He added: “This latest non-musical Disney version – hard though it tries – never recaptures the abundant charm and magic of the original. A few good songs might have helped.”

And he added: “His film is undermined by the worthiness of its animal rights message.”

A Dumbo remake that fails to jerk tears has to be counted as a failure, regardless of the secondary pleasures on offer, which aren't inconsiderable The Telegraph's Robbie Collin

The Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin said the film “invites nothing but mumbling indifference”.

“The story’s core motif – that with a little self-belief, even an elephant can fly – never gets airborne,” he said.

Awarding the movie three stars, he wrote that “its many departures only muddle the original’s nursery-rhyme simplicity and neuter its famous sustained emotional wallop”.

And he added: “A Dumbo remake that fails to jerk tears has to be counted as a failure, regardless of the secondary pleasures on offer, which aren’t inconsiderable.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney praised the period costumes and production design but said the new Dumbo “holds the attention but too seldom tugs at the heartstrings”.

“It’s not going to supplant the eternally beloved 1941 animated classic for the multiple generations exposed to it at a young age, there’s likely enough here to keep today’s children absorbed,” he wrote.

Owen Gleiberman wrote in Variety that the film “transforms a gentle and miraculous tale into a routine story by weighing it down with a lot of nuts and bolts it didn’t need”.

Director Tim Burton attending the European premiere of Dumbo in London (PA)

But Empire’s Ben Travis was more complimentary, giving the film four stars.

He said: “At first glance, Dumbo feels like an odd choice for Tim Burton, a filmmaker more typically taken with headless horsemen, scissor-handed loners and demon barbers.”

But he added: “On closer inspection, it’s an inspired pairing — this is the story of a pure-hearted oddity… and Dumbo is a tale primed for Burton-vision.”

The Press Association’s Damon Smith gave the movie six out of 10, writing: “Dumbo lacks the old-fashioned charm of the animated film and some of its heart-tugging emotion but as a spectacle filled with hastily sketched human protagonists, Burton’s vision is bountiful.”

And The Atlantic’s David Sims wrote that “Disney’s live-action remakes usually leave me cold…. Not so with Dumbo”.

He said: “The film is just different enough to stick out amid the studio’s backwards-looking slate, and Burton, for the first time in years, shows he hasn’t lost his love for the idiosyncratic.”

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