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‘DUMBO’ BEGS THE QUESTION: WHY?

Disney’s new live-action Dumbo isn’t awful….but it isn’t very good, either. Why waste so much money and talent on a film that is foredoomed to take second place to a classic? I know it’s all about making money, yet surely there are new ideas to pursue instead of constantly reproducing past successes.

In this case the bar is set impossibly high. Dumbo is my favorite animated Disney feature. It’s got heart, humor, and originality. What’s more, it tells its story in just over an hour’s time. It’s a perfect movie.

Why Tim Burton would devote himself to a mediocre remake with a bloated script I can’t imagine. I won’t waste my time or yours describing the story, which takes place (of course) at a circus. The screenplay bears only passing resemblance to the original, and comparisons are not salutary. You’ll hear the beautiful lullaby “Baby Mine,” from the 1941 movie soundtrack, but you won’t feel the emotions that song is supposed to engender.

Everything about this film is overdone: Michael Keaton’s one-note villainy, the gargantuan Dreamland theme park setting for the big finale, etc. The one iota of charm can be found in the title character, a baby elephant with oversized ears, rendered in highly believable CGI.

Parents who take their kids to see Dumbo this weekend may feel they got their money’s worth. It’s an elaborate production, thanks to Burton’s A-list collaborators like production designer Rick Heinrichs, costume designer Colleen Atwood, and composer Danny Elfman. The money spent is evident but I feel sorry for anyone who mistakes this for quality entertainment. It’s downright discouraging, and the knowledge that there are more Disney remakes on the way lends no comfort at all. The baby elephant may fly in this retread of Dumbo but the movie remains decidedly earthbound.

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