This article contains opinion.
“Dumbo” is the most alive a Tim Burton movie has felt in at least a decade, but it’s not without its faults.
The biggest among them is the entire first half of the movie, which is one massive slog. That section of the film is more or less a straight up remake of the original 1941 movie, and it feels like no one involved cares about anything that’s happening.
The additional wrinkle they add to this is a dad (Colin Farrell, doing a painful Southern accent) who just returned from World War II trying to reconnect with his kids after the loss of their mom. This, of course, all takes place at a circus, run by Max Medici (Danny Devito, the only person who feels like they’re putting any effort in during this part of the movie).
You know the rest from here. There’s an elephant that can fly, but this time a little girl teaches him how to instead of a mouse.
Look, what happens in this part of the movie doesn’t matter because it’s boring.
Then, then something wonderful happens. Michael Keaton enters the movie as a scenery chewing, evil-billionaire ringmaster, and the movie suddenly gets a pulse.
As soon as Dumbo is brought to Dreamland, the nightmarish amusement park/circus, the movie becomes a lot more fun.
Burton becomes alive. The gags come fast, and the set pieces are dynamic and interesting. One gag in particular is an extended homage to German-expressionist horror films that’d make Robert Wiene smile.
By the time Keaton is smashing a weird ‘50s sci-fi control panel as the park burns down around him, I was cackling like a mad king.
The problems are still there. The human characters, outside of Devito and Keaton are uninteresting at best. The romantic subplot between Eva Green and Farrell feels forced and comes out of nowhere.
Still, the movie counteracts all of that by just going full-tilt wacky.
I truly hated this movie in the first half and was expecting it to be another halfhearted Tim Burton “reimagining,” but there’s enough fun to be had that it’s quite enjoyable. The only problem is sitting through the first hour or so to get there.