“Wonder elephant soars to fame,” reads the headline of a newspaper that publishes the story of a flying elephant gliding across the circus tent. That is one of the most exhilarating visuals, which is bound to stay with you much after the film is over. Director Tim Burton’s mastery in creating visual fantasies is once again at display in this simplistic film about emotions that are universal. Set in 1919, every frame of the film captures the essence of what it tries to convey. Burton and his screenplay writer Ehren Kruger stick to the staple Disney tricks in telling a simple yet effective tale that has already been told before. Thankfully, the director manages to get the right amount of restrain from most of his actors.
As a former circus star and a World War I veteran, Colin Farrell is convincing as Holt Farrier. He brings in the vulnerability of a single parent and a circus star, who is reduced to training the elephants after losing an arm in the war. Veteran actor Danny DeVito (Max Medici) goes a little over-the-top at times, but as the boisterous ringmaster and an owner of a struggling circus, he is allowed to do so. Eva Green sets many a hearts racing with her beauty and grace as the French trapeze artist Colette Marchant. Burton also manages to establish the connection between Dumbo and the two children, who mirror the loss of their own mother, when Dumbo is separated from his. Micheal Keaton in his caricature bad guy act looks menacing and funny, both at the same time.
But the film’s A game clearly lies in its protagonist. The novelty of Dumbo’s flying act doesn’t wear off even when the act itself becomes repetitive. Every time the pachyderm flies, it takes you along with it. The scenes involving the mother elephant are emotionally stirring and will strike a chord with the audience. Film’s visual scale towers above many of its obvious flaws, but doesn’t quite lift it above Burton’s legacy of creating magical realism in the past. While there are problems such as predictability, caricature characters and a sluggish pace, ‘Dumbo’ has its moments. Overall, it’s a harmless family entertainer for children of all ages.