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Movie Review: ‘Dumbo’ remake blends family and tragedy

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Emily J. Sullivan
Staff Writer

Tim Burton delivers a new and improved live-action re-imagining of the original 1941 Disney classic “Dumbo.”

When World War I soldier Holt Farrier, played by Colin Farrell, returns home to the traveling Medici Brothers Circus, he is down an arm and a wife who was lost to influenza while he was away.

His two children, cared for by the circus crew, mourn the loss of their mother as they continue on with the daily life in a traveling circus.

Holt, now an amputee, is out of a job as the circus horse trainer and performing cowboy and is forced to take whatever gig he can get, which is coincidentally taking care of Mrs. Jumbo, a pregnant elephant expected to give birth any day.

Everyone is anxiously anticipating the baby elephant’s arrival but when the baby is born, giant floppy ears give reason for the poor baby elephant to be ridiculed and rejected, landing him with the name “Dumbo.”

It is not long into the film before Dumbo sucks a feather up into his trunk and takes flight as he sneezes it out, much to Holt’s children, Milly and Joe’s amazement.

They keep it under wraps while they can but when Dumbo’s secret gets out, the Medici Brother’s Circus ringleader Max Medici, played by Danny DeVito, sees Dumbo’s gift as a profitable act unlike any other.

Once Dumbo’s miraculous ability becomes public knowledge, the Medici Brothers Circus is in the spotlight and convinced to move to Coney Island and join up with smarmy amusement park savant V.A. Vandevere, played by Michael Keaton.

The film has strong themes of familial bonds both with the family you are born with, like Mrs. Jumbo and baby Dumbo and the family you make, like the crew and cast of the traveling circus who protect and fight for one another, and especially Dumbo, throughout the story.

Tim Burton brings his quirky and dark charm to the “Dumbo” re-imagining with amped up violence, frightening sequences, creepy set design, brilliant costume design and an all around visually stunning experience incorporating CGI visual effects.

The story of Dumbo now lives on and corrects the mistakes from previous Dumbo movies, as the film makes a point of encouraging young girls to aspire to greatness, through the encouragement of Milly’s scientific endeavors.

Animal cruelty and confinement is banished in the end and the bad guy gets what’s comin’ to him.

The real hero of the story though, is our favorite floppy-eared flying baby elephant, Dumbo.

Emily J. Sullivan can be reached at

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