Dumbo 2019 Parent Guide
The CGI elephant soars, but the rest of the movie lands with a disappointing thud.
Parent Movie Review
Tim Burton’s live action remake of Dumbo marks an outstanding technical achievement on the part of Walt Disney Studios. The big-eared baby elephant is entirely computer generated, but it is almost impossible to tell while watching the film. The pachyderm’s skin is beautifully textured, it walks like it has weight, and every emotion shows in its remarkably lifelike eyes. Curiosity, fear, sorrow, despair, excitement, hope, and happiness all shine from Dumbo’s limpid gaze. Somehow, the tech geniuses at Disney managed to give this pixel and byte elephant a soul.
Sadly, Dumbo is the only character in this flawed remake for whom that can be said. The other characters are so flat it feels like they were written and acted by computer algorithms. Ironically Dumbo feels like a living elephant surrounded by CGI sets and characters. The child actors (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins) are particularly bad; whether they lack talent or were poorly directed is hard to tell. But Colin Farrell acts like he’s uninterested in his part, Danny DeVito seems to be reprising his role from Taxi, and Michael Keaton is the only one who is occasionally fun to watch. It is possible that these are simply the musings of a jaded film critic, but I am not optimistic that other viewers will be charmed by this production.
This is not to say that the movie is irredeemably dreadful - in my opinion, it has improved the plot of the original 1941 animated version. The beginning of the movie hews closely to the original film: a baby elephant with large ears is born to Jumbo the elephant. When the little one is mocked and frightened, momma elephant goes on a rampage, is separated from her baby, and is shackled and sold. In the modern remake, two children teach the elephant to fly using a feather, and Dumbo delights crowds with his unique ability. The new film launches the plot on a different trajectory – which aligns more closely with 21st century sensibilities – and which is a change for the better. But, unfortunately, the improvements in plot don’t compensate for the film’s poor acting and wooden feel.
Dumbo is likely to struggle to find an audience. It is too dark and frightening for preschoolers who will also be upset by the scenes where Dumbo is separated from his mother. Older kids may consider it dull or “babyish”. Adults will likely find the film’s flaws irksome. And parents will be disappointed to find even a small amount of profanity in a Disney feature: there are four curse words in the film and a brief humorous reference to alcohol. There is also some peril and violence in the movie, but none of it is gratuitous or gory.
The story does have some positive messages – it encourages friendship and loyalty and gives a moving representation of the power of the bond between mother and child. But the movie’s biggest problem remains that it lacks whimsy, magic, or enchantment. In Dumbo, the only thing that soars is the elephant. Everything else falls to earth with a disappointing thud.Directed by Tim Burton. Starring Eva Green, Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton . Running time: 130 minutes. Theatrical release March 29, 2019. Updated March 27, 2019
Watch the trailer for Dumbo 2019
Rating & Content Info
Why is Dumbo 2019 rated PG? Dumbo 2019 is rated PG by the MPAA for peril/action, some thematic elements, and brief mild language
Violence: An elephant throws a man into a trough of water. A man tips over a basket with a snake in it to frighten a child. Crowds make fun of a baby elephant and throw things at him. An angry elephant rampages in a circus tent and knocks over the supporting pillar: the tent collapses. A man dies in the elephant rampage; his covered body is shown being loaded into a coroner’s vehicle. An elephant sprays water at boys who made fun of him. Animals are shown shackled and caged. A truck is driven through a closed gate. A man chases children, grabs one, and gets kicked by the child. A man is lassoed and dragged by a horse. A fire starts and spreads over a large area: a man and his children a trapped by the fire before being rescued.
Sexual Content: A man is shown in a bubble bath: his back and chest are visible.
Profanity: There is a smothered scatological curse word, a term of deity, and two mild curse words. There is a fair bit of name-calling: “freak” is used often with “monster” also heard.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A clown brings champagne into a tent for the elephant but is told that babies can’t have alcohol.
Page last updated March 27, 2019
Dumbo 2019 Parents' Guide
Dumbo clearly shows the pain felt by Dumbo and Jumbo when they are separated. Did you know that elephants have strong family bonds and complex social systems? Elephants even mourn when they lose a family member. Do you think elephants should be kept in zoos or circuses to educate people about their species or do you think all elephants belong in the wild and should never be kept in captivity?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Younger viewers who want to enjoy the story again and again will likely be pleased by the Dumbo Live Action Picture Book by author Calliope Glass and illustrators Dominic Carola and Ryan Feltman.
Early readers will enjoy Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series. I Broke My Trunk! will give kids a good laugh and the satisfaction of reading the story by themselves.
Elementary school kids will be drawn to R.P. Harris’ Tua and the Elephant. Set in Thailand, this sweet little book tells the story of Tua, a young girl who runs into an elephant who needs help escaping the men who have abused him. Tua befriends the elephant and leads him to safety in an elephant refuge.
The Babar series is the classic go-to collection for young elephant lovers. Written by Jean De Brunhoff, the first book is The Story of Babar. It begins with the death of Babar’s mother, his journey to the city, his friendship with the kind Old Lady, and his subsequent marriage and return to the forest to become the King of the Elephants.
Older kids who are not deterred by the sadder moments in the film and want more elephant tales will be drawn to Kate DiCamillo’s The Magician’s Elephant. This fable, with haunting illustrations by Yoko Tanaka, centers around a boy’s quest for his missing (believed dead) sister, a magician, and an elephant who will help the boy find answers. The story is emotionally intense with dark moments but is filled with hope. For child readers with some emotional maturity.
For older viewers who can’t get enough of the film’s visual design, check out Leah Gallo’s The Art and Making of Dumbo. With a foreword by Tim Burton, this book gives a detailed look at the creation of the flying elephant and his circus home.
News About "Dumbo 2019"
Tim Burton directs this live-action/animation version of Dumbo. A retelling of the story of the little elephant with ears big enough to fly.
Related home video titles:
This movie is based on the classic Disney animation Dumbo.
Tweens and older viewers who want to enjoy a musical circus story can sing along with The Greatest Showman, the fictionalized biopic of circus founder P.T. Barnum.