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Dumbo Movie Review – High-Flying but Heart-Tugging

Dumbo will win your heart and you will root for his happiness.

Reviewed by on Mar 27, 2019
Rating: 3 Star Rating

Kidzworld saw Dumbo. This live-action version of a Disney classic contains many sad moments but if you can hang on, you’ll see the little guy triumph. Check our movie review.

By: Lynn Barker

In Dumbo, ringmaster and circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), a former circus star, and his two children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for Dumbo, a baby elephant born with oversized ears. When the family discovers that Dumbo can fly, he soon becomes the main attraction putting the struggling circus back on its feet.  The news attracts V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton) owner of a much bigger show who wants to feature Dumbo, with upsetting results.

Dumbo's mom protects him at all costsDumbo's mom protects him at all costsCourtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Dumbo Trailer

Sad Return

It’s 1919 and the Medici Brothers Circus packs up from its winter headquarters in Sarasota, Florida and takes their circus train out for performances across the U.S. At a depot, kids Milly and Joe wait for their dad Holt to come back from World War I. They are shocked to see that he has lost an arm and are still recovering from the recent death of their circus performer mom from a horrible influenza epidemic. The husband and wife were an equestrian team but Medici had to sell their horses to pay debts. Now, what will Holt do for a living?

Will the kids and Dumbo have to part?Will the kids and Dumbo have to part?Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Meet Mama Jumbo

Milly, who is interested in science, not circus performing, is happy when dad is assigned to care for the new baby elephant about to be born. Rufus, a cruel animal handler, isn’t kind to Mrs. Jumbo and when her baby is born with very oversized ears, he laughs. Mom Jumbo throws him into a horse trough. Medici, who was hoping the newborn would bring in business, is now doubtful. The kids discover that, when he ingests a feather and sneezes it out, Dumbo flaps his ears and actually can fly a bit! Wow! They tell dad who has little time and doesn’t believe them.

Little Dumbo is fascinated with feathersLittle Dumbo is fascinated with feathersCourtesy of Walt Disney Pictures


Medici has Dumbo dressed in a big bonnet that hides his ears and parades him during a performance in an oversized baby carriage. At first, the audience thinks he is charming but a feather on a lady’s hat attracts him and he yanks it off, and her wig with it. His ears are exposed and the audience laughs and throws trash at Dumbo. His cries of protest reach his mom who rampages in to help her baby. Holt calms her down but mean Rufus yells “Mad elephant!” causing the audience to panic and run. Protecting her baby, Mama Jumbo wrecks the tent and ends up trampling Rufus to death by accident. Mom is locked up and is taken away in a truck the next day, going back to her original owner. Dumbo and the kids are sleepless and heartbroken.

Medici, Milly and her dad hope Dumbo will flyMedici, Milly and her dad hope Dumbo will flyCourtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

He Can Fly!

A feather near his trunk makes Dumbo sneeze and, again he flaps his big ears and flies a lot more this time. He’s chasing the feather. Milly hopes he will fly in the show and the circus will be successful enough to be able to buy Mrs. Jumbo back! Dumbo is put into a clown act starring the unhappy Holt playing a fireman clown. Dumbo is supposed to put out a fire by spraying water on it. He is hauled up very high, is afraid and won’t fly. When a prop building actually does catch fire, he is trapped. Milly climbs to his rescue with a feather and Dumbo finally flies to safety stunning the crowd.

Can a frightened Dumbo fly?Can a frightened Dumbo fly?Courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Enter Vandevere

Bigtime showman Vandevere sees a photo taken of the flying elephant and wants to buy him. Medici’s circus is doing much better when Vendevere and his top star aerialist Collette (Eva Green) arrive to see this flying wonder. When he does, Vandevere offers Medici a partnership in his fancy theme-park-like Dreamland attraction. The whole group of circus performers is offered jobs in the show as well. Lilly and Joe are glad since, surely they will make enough money now to buy back Dumbo’s mom.

Vandevere wishes Collette luck on her performanceVandevere wishes Collette luck on her performanceCourtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

New Life?

The Farrier family is impressed with fancy new quarters and an offer to Holt to star again in his own equestrian show but….only if Dumbo will fly. It’s up to Holt to make him and, by the way, he’s to fly with Collette riding him. What? The kids show the feather secret to Collette and she, the family and Dumbo become friends. He can fly fine with her on his back. Vandevere brings his banker to the first performance hoping for more backing but Dumbo drops his feather and Collette falls but is okay. Dumbo, sure he hears his mother calling, flies right out of the big circus tent.

Collette hands a flying feather to DumboCollette hands a flying feather to DumboCourtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Nightmare Island

Mom Jumbo is in a big cage in a scary attraction with so-called “killer” animals. She and Dumbo briefly reunite but Vandevere separates them, dragging Dumbo away. The banker won’t give Vandevere more money until Dumbo’s flying act actually works as planned. Vandevere orders the mom elephant taken away and killed so she won’t distract Dumbo again. Vandevere tells Medici to fire all of his performers. No room for them. An unhappy employee of Vandevere’s tells Holt and the kids that the mother elephant will be picked up the next night and…not come back.

Milly and circus performers bathe DumboMilly and circus performers bathe DumboCourtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Safe and Free?

Holt, Medici and the performers formulate a plan to rescue Mom Jumbo and make sure she and Dumbo are set free together.  While Dumbo and Collette have to perform, the group sets about making this happen. Will they succeed? Will Dumbo and mom finally be permanently reunited? Will Vandevere get what’s coming to him?

Dumbo flies in performanceDumbo flies in performanceCourtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Wrapping Up

Dumbo contains a lot of positive messages like: No animal should be a captive performer in a circus and anything you might consider a disadvantage can be turned into an advantage. Also, a close family can consist of a group of unrelated people etc.  These are great “lessons”. On the negative side is the repeated emotional and even physical abuse Dumbo and his mom suffer. It’s a little too cruel to see a pregnant elephant treated roughly and watch the circus audience toss trash at baby Dumbo.

Director Tim Burton on set of DumboDirector Tim Burton on setCourtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

Letting him only briefly be reunited with his mom only to be dragged away is a little over-the-top. Yes, Bambi’s mom is killed in a forest fire but we don’t see this happening. The 2019 Dumbo is taking the original animated film’s tale of a mom elephant taken from her baby a step or two further. Yes, we will give you the spoiler that the film has a happy ending (you didn’t think so?) but a lot of kids and teens might feel pretty upset before they get to it. From an 11-year-old in my audience “It was cute. Dumbo was cute but some of it was sooo sad”.

Entering Vandevere's DreamlandEntering Vandevere's DreamlandCourtesy of Walt Disney Pictures

The movie is visually a delight with wonderful costuming and set design. Little Dumbo is a CGI marvel with oversized blue eyes but the look and movement of a real elephant. Performances are overall good but some are a bit overdone and the kid actors range from convincing to seeming like they are reading their lines off the page. 

Dumbo has a balance of pros and cons so we award three stars.

Dumbo Movie Rating: 3


See Dumbo in theaters Friday, March 29th

Share Your Feelings!

Have you ever seen the original animated Dumbo film? Do you like circuses with animals or think they are cruel? Which is your favorite circus performer; trapeze artists, clowns or…..?  Tell everyone with a comment and/or write it all on your Kidzworld profile page.