So why did Tim Burton‘s Dumbo come up short with a lousy $45 million domestic? Not because the second half is an over-produced slog to sit through but because the original animated Disney flick is nearly 80 years old. Today’s parents-of-toddlers were mostly born in the late ’70s and ’80s. The only generation for whom Dumbo signifies any kind of emotional resonance are the boomers and baby-busters.
First-weekend grosses are almost never about the quality of a film — they’re about vapors, aromas, intuitions…what the audience is sensing and whether or not the package feels like it might be a plus rather than a so-whatter.
From my 3.26. review: “The second half — or when poor Dumbo’s life is darkened by Michael Keaton‘s V. A. Vandevere, a P.T. Barnum-meets-Beetlejuice figure who represents all kinds of venality, corporate greed and the seven circles of hell — the second half is just awful. The scale of Keaton’s super-circus (a Dante-esque amusement park called Dreamland) is oppressive. Watching this portion is a combination of (a) “villainy! vulgarity! greed!”, (b) “turn off the stupid spigots,” (b) “who wrote this godawful dialogue?” (answer: Ehren Kruger) and (d) “please burn it all down.”