Dumbo the elephant flies high. Dumbo the movie not so much, according to a 53% rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. But, of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Four takes on Tim Burton's live-action reboot of the 1941 Disney animated classic, set in the American Midwest following World War I:
- "The best parts of the new film, by a long stretch, are the flying sequences. … Elsewhere, however, we are dragged through patches of glum and listless drama," Anthony Lane writes at the New Yorker. He adds the audience's sour view of animal-powered circuses "won't be brushed off" despite Burton's attempt at a solution. It leaves one wondering "whether he picked the right Disney feature to reboot."
- "It will surely end up being one of the least memorable" of Disney's live-action reboots, writes Christy Lemire at RogerEbert.com. Audiences will recall elements of Burton's earlier work. But the "inevitable comparisons only highlight how inferior Dumbo is." On the bright side, there's "goddess" Eva Green as an "elegant aerialist," and Danny DeVito (circus owner Max Medici) "with sharp comic timing as always."
- Yet Burton has a fan in Manohla Dargis. "Watching him cut loose … is by far the most unexpected pleasure of this movie"—"ho-hum until it takes a turn toward the fascinatingly weird." With that, Burton transforms "what could have been another remake into something genuinely different and surprising," Dargis writes at the New York Times. "What exactly it is will partly depend on your view toward Disney," but "the joy of creation … burns with a vengeance."
- While Green shows "a warmth she's rarely called upon to display," Chris Klimek sees only a "docile Burton" at work. "This efficient, indistinct Dumbo could've been directed by any number of Chris Columbuses or Brad Peytons or Jon Favreaus," he writes at NPR, concluding "the only creatures likely to remember this Dumbo a year from now are elephants."
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