Dumbo joyfully takes flight in this bloated re-imagining. Disney's original animation, whilst groundbreaking during its initial release, contained too many outdated elements that hindered its overall timelessness. And if you strongly disagree with me, I highly recommend you revisit it and you'll hopefully know what I mean. Now during the height of live action adaptations, the "House of Mouse" recruit their favourite gothic director (and all his eccentricities) to bring the magic of belief back onto the big screen. Suffice to say, it's as safe as you expected it to be, given the results of 'Alice in Wonderland', but an enjoyable flick for the entire family. A baby elephant in a travelling circus discovers the ability to fly by using his abnormally giant ears. Word of mouth spreads and he is soon contracted, along with other performances, to perform at Dreamland (the equivalent of Disneyland).
The original had issues. It was not perfect in the slightest. Dumbo's central plot characteristic is only explored in the last seven minutes, the drunken scene, unmemorable music and the crows. Surprisingly, Burton resolves these issues. He condenses the animation's seventy minute runtime into the first thirty minutes of this film, allowing Dumbo's flying ability to be explored almost immediately. The drunken scene is substituted for a vivid performance involving bubbles, and don't worry the "Pink Elephants" sequence is still included. The crows are non-existent and this adaptation rarely focuses on its musical influence.
However in doing so, Burton has created new problems for himself. The original's core message of self-belief and accepting one's abnormalities are somewhat lost within Burton's lavish production. Instead, he has re-imagined the message to ironically tackle corporate greed and the negative connotations of monopolising the entertainment industry. It's a different route to say the least, not particularly fresh and inventive but it's accessible for a range of audiences. The main problem is the screenplay. The characters, despite acquiring some colourful attire, were abhorrently dull and one-dimensional. This would be fine if Dumbo was the predominant character consuming most of the screen time, however arguably he is not.
The addition of these human characters, whilst needed to force the story to be grounded in realism, were badly executed. The children especially simply describe the plot just because Dumbo can't, including how the adorable elephant is feeling. This spoon-feeding narrative made the story feel sluggish, and at a bloated runtime totalling at over two hours, it introduced inconsistent pacing. Due to that extensive runtime, several scenes felt repetitive and acted as filler. The performances were all fine (although nothing to write home about) but Dumbo himself stole the show. Absolutely. Utterly. Absurdly. Adorable. Just look at him! Urgh, just want to stroke his trunk and ride him...ummm right, anyway!
Burton's exciting set pieces and eye for gorgeous production value enable that famous Disney magic to come bursting off the screen. And, for better or worse, his re-imagined version of this classic story does have several entertaining moments of pure wonder and joy that prevents it from being bad. In fact, I rather enjoyed the film as a whole. It's just an incredibly safe, predictable and one-dimensional approach for Burton, which occasionally forces Dumbo to fall from grace.