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Byron Shire
April 12, 2021

Cinema Review: Dumbo

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There is something about movies by Tim Burton that makes them a bit like a takeaway Chinese dinner – ten minutes after you’ve eaten it, you’re hungry again. Maybe the problem lies (for me, anyway) in not exactly knowing what he is trying to say, and to which audience he is making his pitch. As always with Burton, this is a visually sumptuous film – if you can’t get into it, you can at least look at it forever. As a re-make of an animated ‘classic’, it works because it passes the crucial test of believability. The little CGI elephant is absolutely convincing, from the moment we meet him after he has been born into the circus world of Max Medici (Danny DeVito, an annoying actor who yells all the time). With absurdly overgrown ears, it is soon discovered by the kids looking after Dumbo (Nico Parker, Finley Hobbins) that he can fly if you stick a feather up his trunk. It goes without saying that a callous entrepreneur (Michael Keaton) will muscle his way into the money-making opportunity, thus introducing the villain, in the form of greedy commerce exploiting the sweet-natured carney folks. Dumbo is adorable, especially when, in his first nervous appearance before the paying rubes, he saves the day despite the most precarious circumstance – it was heart-stopping, even to this most jaded reviewer. That Burton repeats the scene soon after says rather too much about his resort to cliché. The characters are two-dimensional, although I could not quite get a handle on why the kids’ father (Colin Farrell), needed to have only one arm (and I could not see where it was hidden). The film is colourful, spectacular, and uncomplicated with the line between good and bad clearly drawn, although the almost deafening score is noisier than it needs to be (what movie isn’t these days?). But its most pleasing, belated message is the one it makes about wildlife and the need for us to save it at all costs. Take the kids – they might learn something.

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