PG, 105 mins.
2022, PG, 105 mins.
Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as Pinocchio (voice) / Tom Hanks as Geppetto / Luke Evans as The Coachman / Cynthia Erivo as Blue Fairy / Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiminy Cricket (voice) / Keegan Michael Key as 'Honest' John (voice) / Lorraine Bracco as Sofia the Seagull (voice) / Kyanne Lamaya as Fabiana / Jaquita Ta'le as Sabina (voice)Directed by Robert Zemeckis / Written by Chris Weitz and Simon Farnaby
"Well... [coughs] Here we go again..."
- Jiminy Cricket in PINOCCHIO (1940)
more I thought about Disney’s live action PINOCCHIO remake after
streaming it (it ain't playing in cinemas, folks!) the more frustrated I
original 1940 classic - just Disney's second animated feature ever at that
point - remains an untouchable classic and a masterstroke work that was
then unparalleled for its pioneering artistry.
The notion that anyone - including the House of Mouse - would ever
think that remaking it beat for beat in live action form and with the
latest advancements in CGI technology would somehow (a) be warranted and
(b) improve upon what has come before is a supreme fool's errand.
In what seems to be a never-ending quest to milk their established
properties for money versus intrepidly and audaciously creating news ones
for contemporary consumption, Disney seems hell bent on looking back as
opposed to forward. They have
made many highly polarizing and problematic live action iterations of
their iconic hand drawn animated film catalogue, with DUMBO,
AND THE BEAST, and THE LION KING
coming dubiously to mind. Now
comes PINOCCHIO, which is inexplicably from the director/star tandem of
Oscar winners Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks (their first live action
partnership in over twenty years). Shockingly,
their update of this classic fairy tale - which, in term, was adapted from
the 1883 Italian's children novel - proves to be a nonsensically awful
is a hopelessly safe, pedestrian, soulless, and ultimately cynical minded
project on a creative level, and one that A-listers like Zemeckis and
Hanks really have no business collaborating on.
The worst sin, though, of this remake is that it does nothing fresh
and novel with the very cherished source material, outside of some
cosmetic upgrades and some minor tweaks to the overall narrative thrust.
What's the point of a remake if it's just lazily regurgitating what
came before wholesale? Obviously, one has to respect and pay homage to the original
while doing something unique with the underlining material.
PINOCCHIO is high on using the latest advancements in VFX
technology, to be fair, but there's simply no heart whatsoever to be found
here. Emotionally and
dramatically, this PINOCCHIO is as wooden as its titular character.
It's also proof positive that no amount of high tech computer
effects can match or replace the infinite charm of a painstakingly hand
crafted 2D animated feature that came out eighty-plus years ago.
in this remake in terms of storytelling should come of no surprise
whatsoever to anyone even vaguely familiar with the original. There's Geppetto the woodworker (Hanks, in a mostly
embarrassing turn, broadly playing more of a caricature than a real person)
has just lost his wife and son, which leads to him living vicariously -
and some might aptly say unhealthily - through his latest wooden puppet
that he dubs Pinocchio. All
he wishes for is that his creation becomes a real boy and fill the hole in
his heart that was left by his deceased son.
One night in steps the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo), and she quite
easily grants Geppetto's request while he's sleeping, and when the
tradesmen awakens in the morning he's shocked to see that his wooden boy
has, in fact, come to life (voiced by Ben Ainsworth).
Geppetto wants Pinocchio to have a life as normal as any other
child, so he decides to ship him off to school, but along the way he's
stopped by a two-bit crook, Honest John the Fox (voiced by Keegan-Michael
Key), who tricks the new lad into the promise of super stardom at
Stromboli's (Giuseppe Battiston) puppet show.
Unfortunately and tragically for poor Pinocchio, he's all but
reduced to a caged slave, which leads to Geppetto springing into action
and launching a search and rescue mission.
Oh, and we also have the insect sized Jiminy Cricket (voiced
decently by a fairly unrecognizable Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who previously
worked with Zemeckis on the terribly underrated THE
WALK) serving as a narrator and concerned onlooker to all of these
say that this new PINOCCHIO is a - cough, cough - "live
action" film is more than a bit misleading.
With the possible exception of a few human characters and a small
handful of what I'm assuming are practical sets, I'd wager that 90 per
cent of what's on screen here is pure CG make-believe.
In defense of PINOCCHIO, though, labeling it as live action is not
as egregiously false as doing the same with the 100 per cent CG animated
THE LION KING, but you get my drift here.
The effects are spiffy and polished, yes, but there's no ethereal
spark or magic to them. Pinocchio
himself looks pretty much exactly as he was envisioned in the 1940 version
(granted, in CG form, he looks more creepily vacant eyed and woefully
lacking in the expression/personality department than ever before), as do
the other animal based characters (Jiminy Cricket appears more
insect-like, which may prove off-putting to some and is not altogether an
improvement). Geppetto's pet
kitten Figaro - so wonderfully spirited
and full of life in the 40's film - is
such a phony looking CG concoction here that his interactions with Hanks
distract more than delight. It's clear that Disney was not
attempting to make any sizable changes with this property to creatively
change things up on a visual level, and all we're really left with is
Zemeckis himself - an extraordinarily gifted cinematic visualist if his
past films have anything to say - trying to impart some memorable
stylistic flair into the proceedings.
The Academy Award winning filmmaker's fingerprints are depressingly
nowhere to be seen throughout PINOCCHIO, mostly because these live action
Disney adaptations have such an assembly line, committee-led blandness to
them all. If you didn't tell
me that Zemeckis directed PINOCCHIO before I went into it - and I went
into it completely blind - then I would have been utterly shocked when I
saw his name on the end credits.
are some changes made to "modernize" PINOCCHIO, if I can even
decree it as such. When
Pinocchio and his child companions are being thrust into the sinful
pleasures of Pleasure Island in the original they were given cigars and
beer...but this time there's no smoking and root beer replaces the real
thing. Beyond the obvious
sanitizing efforts here, the unnerving edge to the original PINOCCHIO is
almost DOA in this new film. The
1940 version had a strong element of danger and was legitimately
terrifying in places. The
overall morality tale in the first PINOCCHIO is definitely present here,
but compared to the nightmare fuel elements of being turned into a donkey
and having to fend off deeply creepy coach driving child kidnappers from
before, the retooled version here is scandalously lacking in suspense and
scares. We do get some new
verbal zingers thrown in (like one would-be uproarious gag involving a
Chris Pine name drop, which dreadfully takes one out of the film
completely) and a few scattershot alterations here and there, but so much
of PINOCCHIO redux is an inert and uninspired shell of what has lovingly
came several decades ago. By
the time the film reached its climax involving a seafaring expedition and
a pesky giant whale, one is left with an overwhelming sensation that the
makers have failed to drum up any rational motivation for making this
film. The obvious motivation is, yup, money, but because Disney
unceremoniously dumped this directly to streaming on Disney+ as opposed to
giving it a wide theatrical release (or even granting it a massive
marketing campaign) says an awful lot about their very internal confidence
on this product's worth.
I re-watched the animated PINOCCHIO recently before watching Zemeckis' remake and I was continually floored by the former's daring conceptual imagination and by what a watershed animated achievement it was...and remains. It reaffirmed why Disney was ultimately poised for industry greatness moving forward as a pioneering trailblazer that bucked status quos. Flashforward eight decades and this same company - using a metaphor that I've frankly repeated far too many times in reviews of these films - is just re-heating leftovers from the past and passing them on to modern moviegoers as new, state of the art cuisines. It's frankly a depressing state of affairs. I've responded with mostly indifference to many of these Disney live action appropriations so far (hell, I even liked a few, most notably PETE'S DRAGON, which was one of the finest remakes period of recent memory), but somehow I feel that the studio has crossed an unpardonable line with PINOCCHIO. They have made many unnecessary live action redos of their animated classics, but this one seems pathetically garish and lifeless. Pinocchio himself may have become a real boy via magic, but this is barely a real film with almost no magic in it.
No, I have not forgotten about Guillermo del Toro's PINOCCHIO that's coming out this year as well on Netflix in December. His film will not be live action and instead will be a stop motion animated endeavor and will hone in more on the literary source material for inspiration. That, and his film will be set in 1930's fascist Italy. That sounds like an endlessly fascinating and gutsy approach to re-telling the PINOCCHIO mythos, completely unlike Disney's sluggish copy and past effort.