Dumbo (2019) Review

Dumbo (2019)

Directed by Tim Burton

Based on Disney’s Dumbo by Otto Englander, Joe Grant & Dick Huemer and on Dumbo by Helen Aberson & Harold Pearl

Starring: Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Eva Green, Alan Arkin, Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins

Music by Danny Elfman

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A young elephant, whose oversized ears enable him to fly, helps save a struggling circus, but when the circus plans a new venture, Dumbo and his friends discover dark secrets beneath its shiny veneer.

My Opinion:

First of all, I’m really sick of these Disney live-action remakes of animated classics. I don’t see the point. From recent trailers, The Lion King looks like a soulless copy and Aladdin looks absolutely dreadful. Beauty And The Beast pretty much sucked (but I can’t stand Emma Watson so that didn’t help). I didn’t mind Cinderella but I wonder if it would just annoy me if I watched it again now that I’m sick of all these live-action remakes. I’ve kind of vowed to no longer waste my money going to see this shit.

But I knew I’d go to Dumbo because it’s Tim Burton. I’m a hypocrite. I know his best films are far in the past but I still haven’t given up on him and I wanted to see what he’d do with this film. Plus Dumbo himself was so adorable in the trailers. I’ve always loved that baby elephant! Well, I enjoyed this film. It’s a good one to end on. I’ll happily watch no more live-action remakes after this one.

I feel like I have to justify liking a live-action remake. What can I say? I still love that baby elephant. Of course this comes nowhere near the original film and it breaks my heart that some kids may be watching these remakes before the animated films. Or not watching the animated films at all. For some reason, I prefer when these remakes aren’t an exact copy (which The Lion King looks like). I don’t mind having extra bits of story added on, making it feel like an entirely separate film and therefore not messing with the original film’s legacy in my mind. This movie isn’t Dumbo to me. It never will be. But I think they did well with the character of Dumbo himself and he was by far the best thing about this film (as he should be). Dumbo is the true star of this movie.


The reviews I’ve read have all said that it’s the human characters that let this film down. This is true, although they aren’t terrible. They’re bland but not hateful. The only truly weak one is Michael Keaton’s completely generic baddie but the rest are good enough to support the overall story about a flying elephant. Colin Farrell and his two children (Nico Parker & Finley Hobbins), who are the main human characters, are fine but these roles could’ve been played by anyone. However, Danny DeVito & Eva Green are fun to watch and perfect for Tim Burton’s films – you can understand why he sticks with his favorite actors in so many of his films. The human stories were good enough to keep the film interesting while not overlooking the fact that the one story that really matters is Dumbo’s. And I liked the ending. I’m fine with all the changes in the second half as it’s so different from the original that it hasn’t destroyed my love for the animated film. I also liked how they incorporated the Pink Elephants On Parade bit into this film.

Is it weird that I feel bad for liking the new Dumbo?? I do seriously wish they’d stop with these live-action remakes but, in this case, I was happy seeing this character in a new way. He’s always been a favorite Disney character of mine and I think they did a good job with the look him. They got a good balance between making him look like a real elephant but also sort of “cartoony”, and his adorable blue eyes are very expressive. They did a better job with him than with the other CGI animals in these Disney remakes. I also enjoyed the overall production design of this film, but that’s usually the case with Burton’s movies. None of these Disney remakes will ever top the animated classics but at least the 2019 Dumbo hasn’t destroyed the original film’s legacy for me.

My Rating: 7/10

I’ve added Dumbo to my full ranked list of all the Tim Burton movies I’ve seen HERE. I guess I better finally watch Dark Shadows as it’s the only full-length film he’s directed that I’ve not seen.

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The Last Unicorn (1982) Review

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The Last Unicorn (1982)

Directed by Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin, Jr.

Based on The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Starring: Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Tammy Grimes, Robert Klein, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee, Keenan Wynn, Paul Frees, René Auberjonois

Running time: 84 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A brave unicorn and a magician fight an evil king who is obsessed with attempting to capture the world’s unicorns.

My Opinion:

As the parent of a young child but also a movie lover, I’m often on the lookout for kids’ films that I may actually enjoy as well. I’ve sat through enough crappy movies for kids that I think it’s okay to sometimes get to watch one that interests me as well. Right?! 😉 Enter the 1982 film The Last Unicorn which, apparently, is something of a cult classic, has a very high IMDB rating (for its age & the fact it’s animated) of 7.5/10, AND it’s from RANKIN/BASS plus the animators who went on to form STUDIO GHIBLI yet I’d somehow never even heard of it before?!? Holy shit – I was all over this thing when I read about it! It sounded like something that couldn’t be more ME!!! So we got the DVD & for about two months I said to the hubby & kid “Let’s watch The Last Unicorn!!!!” until they finally agreed (probably to shut me up).

Wow. The Last Unicorn is a strange one. I kind of sort of loved it. I can see that, if I’d watched it as a kid, it may now be as special to me as the Rankin/Bass classic Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer. No, it’s not as good as Rudolph and it certainly doesn’t beat any of the Miyazaki Studio Ghibli films but there’s something kind of special & “magical” about it in the same way I feel there is about the Ghiblis. Hmm… How should I put this? This movie is so “1982” which, to me, is a great thing while to others it’ll be a bad thing. I’d only recommend this one to certain people who like things such as Studio Ghibli, Ralph Bakshi’s work, Heavy Metal (1981), The NeverEnding Story, and… maybe Labyrinth? I’m struggling to describe this but if you hate all the things I’ve listed, you should probably steer clear of The Last Unicorn. Oh – I’d also recommend it to any bronies! Bronies would love it.

I can’t really get into the plot too much and there are pictures I have to avoid posting that would contain massive spoilers. In the movie, a unicorn (voiced by Mia Farrow) discovers she’s the last unicorn in the world & goes on a journey to find out what happened to the others. She’s joined along the way by a magician called Schmendrick (voiced by Alan Arkin). Talk about an impressive voice cast, we also have Jeff Bridges as a prince, Angela Lansbury (always a favorite of mine) as a witch, and the amazing Christopher Lee who is of course perfect as the evil king who tries to capture all the unicorns in the world.

This movie has so many things that fantasy lovers will like: magic, wizards, witches, kings & princes, mythical creatures including a harpy and a rather scary, demonic Red Bull, talking butterfiles, etc etc. Oh yeah – and a unicorn! I have to say that, although unicorns have come to be seen as a “girl” thing, this movie is every bit as much for male viewers as for female – it’s not aimed just at one sex. In fact, when I mentioned this on Twitter, the response I got was from adult males saying how great this film is. I can see why it’s a cult classic – it’s very unusual and the animation is stunning. The story takes a very unexpected turn (the spoiler I’m avoiding) which I now love but took getting used to at first. It’s nice to not be able to predict what will happen like you can with most kids’ films!

As I mentioned, I found the animation stunning. I was happy just looking up images of this film to be included in this post. I think I may have to change my work computer’s wallpaper from My Neighbor Totoro to this!

Yeah, I’m a mature adult. Give me a break – I literally had a big poster of a unicorn jumping over a rainbow over my bed for years as a young girl. God I was girly for a while! Anyway, as I mentioned, the studio responsible for animating this film (Topcraft) were later hired by Hayao Miyazaki to do my other favorite Studio Ghibli movie (along with Totoro), Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind. The studio’s main members then formed Studio Ghibli. (Thanks for that info, Wikipedia!). Anyone who has been around here for a while will know what a big fan I am of Ghibli & how much I love Nausicaä so you can see why I had to see The Last Unicorn after I read about it.

My six-year-old’s opinion:

I’ve started including my daughter’s opinion on kids’ movies so that I don’t appear as some crazy old person rambling on about “cartoons”. So, I’ll include it again this time but I think it’s pretty obvious by now that this one was more for mommy. 😉 

We watched this a few months ago & the movie held her attention well but she’s not really mentioned it or asked to see it again. I asked last night what she thought of that Last Unicorn movie we watched & the reply was “It was better than I thought it would be!”. lol – What does that mean?! I think she was humoring me when she agreed to watch it, then. How sweet! I do think she’s a little too young for it as some of the themes at the end are too grown-up to fully be understood. There’s nothing I’d consider “inappropriate” but it’s a bit “out there” if your kid doesn’t like weirdness plus the Red Bull may be too scary for the very young who scare easily. I can see it being one she’d rediscover & possibly love in two or three years so I’d maybe recommend it to kids of 8 or so. She does love the young Studio Ghiblis, though, (Ponyo, Kiki’s Delivery Service & of course My Neighbor Totoro) so she was probably better able to handle any strangeness.

Summary:

Hopefully I’ve given a bit of an idea as to what this movie is like – I’m going to include a clip of the opening at the end of this post to give you a better idea. This is one of those movies I’m hoping to “introduce” to people here but it’s definitely not going to be loved by anyone who isn’t into this sort of thing or the other films I mentioned in the review. I also think being over 35 & under 10 would help. This is exactly the type of animated movie that obsessive film lovers my age who have young kids look for. I forgot to mention that this movie includes songs by America that are the very definition of late 70s/early 80s “easy listening”. If you like K-Billy’s Super Sounds of the Seventies, you may be able to handle this film. Or if you’re the type to get that reference.

My Rating: 8/10

**I’m including a clip of the opening of this film to give you an idea what it’s like. If you can’t make it past the song by America at 2 1/2 minutes in without gagging, this movie may not be for you… 😉