Dumbo Reviews: What CinemaBlend Thought Of The Disney Live-Action Remake

Dumbo and Mrs. Jumbo

Disney's next big live-action remake of its animated classics is here in the form of Dumbo. For the most part, Disney has had great success with both critics and fans when it comes to these remakes, but here at CinemaBlend, we're not quite sure that Dumbo is going to be the next big Disney hit. Feelings are pretty mixed here between those that feel Dumbo is a fun time spent with a very cute elephant, and those that feel the film simply fails to soar.

News Director Jessica Rawden wrote the official CinemaBlend review and while she gave it only a slight recommendation at three stars out of five, she found the film to have more going for it than against it, saying...

Although not flawless, Dumbo is genuinely enjoyable, deliciously dark and yet appropriate for kids of most ages.

The original Disney animated classic ends at the point when the world discovers that Dumbo can fly. In the new live-action version, that's only the beginning. The revelation that a circus has a flying elephant, obviously, makes the big eared pachyderm a major attraction, but it also draws the attention of others, like theme park impresario V.A. Vandevere, played by Michael Keaton. Colin Ferrell stars as the World War I vet who returns to the circus he left to find himself, and his children, put in a position to care for the baby elephant.

The one thing potentially more surprising than Disney choosing Dumbo for the remake treatment at all may have been the decision to hire Tim Burton to direct the film. Burton is known for his bringing a very dark tone to his films, and while some Disney movies have their dark moments, Dumbo isn't the first one you might think of, (although the Pink Elephants sequence is the stuff of little kids' nightmares).

Staff writer Mike Reyes felt that Dumbo was a return to form for Burton, showing us a side we haven't seen in a long time.

Tim Burton's remake of Dumbo is absolutely beautiful. While it takes a little while to get off the ground, this family drama shows the power of community, and the magic of personal belief, in a way that Burton himself hasn't shown the world in some time. This film doesn't feel like a modern cash-in, but a reimagining that takes the heart of the original and honors it with the depth it deserves.

On the whole, CinemaBlend project manager Cody Beck felt that Burton's take on the material worked, largely thanks to another solid score from longtime Burton collaborator Danny Elfman and some of the best CGI we've seen to date.

I was curious going in how the remake would handle the story and not surprisingly, Dumbo is pretty dark for a PG Movie- but that should be expected from Tim Burton. The CGI is top notch. Michael Keaton is unhinged and entertaining. A few lines and characters were a little flat with the delivery, but overall, it was a heartfelt good time. And, of course, Danny Elfman crushes it, as usual.

While some at CinemaBlend felt that the good outweighed the rougher parts of Dumbo, not everybody here agrees. Events Editor Eric Eisenberg felt that, while there were certainly some positive elements, the film as a whole just ended up average as a result. Certainly not the worst of the Disney remakes, but not the best by a long shot. According to Eric...

The live-action versions of animated Disney classics have run the gamut in terms of quality thus far, and Tim Burton's Dumbo basically lands square in the middle of that scale. It has its moments of wonder, as well as some remarkable cuteness, but it also isn't tremendously substantial. One certainly has to appreciate it's level of chutzpah to, as it's surprisingly bold in the way it takes direct aim at the studio that created it.

From there, however, we get to the voices who felt the Dumbo crashed and burned more than he flew. CB's Braden Roberts felt that for a movie that was designed to be a spectacle, there just wasn't anything there to wow the audience...

Dumbo left me a bit dissapointed. The movie, at its core, is a spectacle. However, it’s a shallow and lack-luster display that fails to capitalize on director Tim Burton’s signature weirdness. A few one liners had me chuckling but ultimately Dumbo left me uninspired for future live-action Disney remakes.

Disappointment is apparently the word of the day, as CinemaBlend Managing Director Sean O'Connell used the exact same word to open his comments about Dumbo. In the end, a remake needs to do something to justify the decision to remake it, and in his eyes Dumbo failed to do that.

Dumbo disappoints. Like a few of the live-action remakes that have preceded it, Dumbo failed to convince me, over the course of its run time, that it needed to exist. It trades on the mild nostalgia that the audience has for its main character, but never figures out its own reason for being. Tim Burton also was the wrong choice, as his macabre instincts make for a too-dark "family" story that's hampered by overly-broad performances and under-developed characters. A misfire from the House of Mouse.

As for me, I land somewhere on the "slightly positive" side of the big top. I appreciated the fact that Dumbo was actually more sequel than remake, something future films in this vein might consider, and I think the movie should be absolutely commended for making one particular decision that just blew me away for most of the film (no spoilers). I do also think that while the film does have dark elements, for a certain generation of kids, this movie could be one of those films they watch on an endless loop. For the older set, however, it's not going to become a new Disney classic. In the end, it reminded me of another Disney remake that I appreciated, but didn't love...

Dumbo suffers from what I will call the "Maleficent Effect." Somebody had a bold, bordering on insane, idea for a movie that feels ultimately hamstrung by the need to waste screen time retelling the plot of the original Disney movie.

Few at CinemaBlend are likely to tell their friends to rush out and see Dumbo, though some would certainly recommend seeing it, one way or another. It has elements worth appreciating, but it's not likely to be a memorable Disney remake, even if you're only comparing it to the films coming out this year.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.