If you’re like me, you’ve come to terms with the fact that crying at least a few tears at a
So why then, even as the get-’em-sobbing moments struck all my most sensitive nerve endings—cute animals, mom-and-child stuff, the pangs of being a social outcast—did
Surrounding Baby Dumbo is a cast of characters as starkly hit-or-miss as your standard gallery of circus acts. We’ll start with the high points: Danny DeVito, doing a sweeter variant of the very same scrappy blowhard shtick on which he founded his career, is a joy to watch without exception. His second-rate circus ringleader is not totally bright, not totally honest, and not at all without a soft spot that he’s ever eager to keep concealed. He is by far the best thing Burton’s human race has to offer, which is a failing only in that the lion’s share of the emotional narrative is shouldered elsewhere.
Namely, the Farrier family (Colin Farrell and young Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins): a good-hearted clan who are programmed by the script to be serious to a fault. Surrounded by brighter performances by DeVito, Eva Green (as an acerbic French acrobat), Alan Arkin (as a big time investor who wants a circus but settles for a hotdog), and Michael Keaton (who is doing a whole thing here that is far too much to limit to parenthetical), the Farriers wind up being a part of the movie to deal with until something more fun comes along. But then there’s the other end of that spectrum: Keaton, who, as millionaire entertainer V. A. Vandevere, is
The film by and large hits Farrier-grade dourness and Vandevere-level mania, never quite finding true peace with either extreme. Human-exclusive material doesn’t have the narrative weight to warrant its tone, and the absolute mayhem of the film’s largest set pieces seem like Burton indulging his wishes for a different film altogether. And at the bizarre nexus of these moods is an all-bubbles version of “Pink Elephants on Parade.” For the life of me, I didn’t know what to do with myself during.