Dumbo Review: A heartwarming, enchanting tale for kids and grownups alike
A love letter to you that asks you to stay strong, spread your wings and soar high above all the hate and negativity
In a particular scene in Tim Burton’s adaptation of the classic pachyderm tale, the baby elephant, Dumbo, standing on an elevated platform, looks down at a huge crowd waiting in anticipation for his performance.
The gravity of the moment hits him and the anxiety that comes with it. When he is about to flap his ears and fly, a few shame him for being a stranger and outcast. He pauses for a moment, looks at the light above him and decides to fly, as it’s his only option to eventually reunite with his mother.
Director: Tim Burton
Cast: Collin Farell, Nico Parker, Eva Green, Danny DeVito
Like most of us, Dumbo is a victim of circumstances who chooses to run, or I should say fly, out of pressure and not out of desire. Burton’s Dumbo is indeed a children’s film. But it’s also a film that shakes the shoulders of the grownups and reminds them that they too are talented and beautiful, just as they are, and there’s no need to look for validation from outside.
Looking at the story macroscopically, every single character suffers in their own way. Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) is shamed for losing his arm in World War I; Dumbo’s mother, Mrs Jumbo, is called mad and dangerous for fighting for her child; and the dreams of little Milly (brilliantly played by Nico Parker), who aspires to become a scientist, are shut down by people who call these dreams unrealistic.
All the animals are mute in this film, unlike the original cartoon version, and this leaves them with only one option to communicate — via their eyes. And it’s testament to the brilliant animation that even before the waterworks in the animated eyes are turned on full steam, drops of tears start dripping down our cheeks, and we begin to grin instantly when these same eyes start to glow with happiness.
I believe falling in love with how an animated character looks on screen is as important as liking the character itself. Burton’s film gets a perfect score in this regard — the scenes where Dumbo is introduced to the people in the circus, seated in a baby cart, wearing a scarf, is sure to make everyone in the audience go aww.
It’s also heartening and refreshing to see the young girl, Milly, be the ray of sunshine for everyone and propel the major decisions in the film. However, I felt the scene where she teaches Dumbo to look beyond his barriers could’ve been left as a metaphor without the needless overkill of spelling it out.
While there’s content aimed at the grown-ups, Tim Burton also makes sure he has something for the kids. The simplest of cuss words are replaced with appropriate synonyms and even his antagonist radiates positivity: “Don’t let anyone say what you can’t do.”
If you have ever been shamed for having a blue eye, dark skin, pointy nose or big ears, this film is a love letter to you that asks you to stay strong, spread your wings and soar high above all the hate and negativity.