Director Robert Zemeckis takes the reigns for Disney’s latest live-action remake enlisting the acting chops of Tom Hanks and a star-studded cast for undoubtedly one of Disney’s most classic animated films, Pinocchio. While the original film and soundtrack are a timeless classic, this soulless rehash takes the classic songs and story and condenses them into a pocket-size update that, while visually impressive, offers little more than some great CGI with the second awful Tom Hanks accent of 2022.
In case you haven’t seen the animated classic, the story follows Geppetto (Tom Hanks) a wood carver who, after living life alone, carves himself a wooden son. He wishes upon a star and the blue fairy (Cynthia Erivo) arrives in the night to bring the wooden toy to life. Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) wakes up and goes on a quest to attend school and be honest, brave and true to become a real boy. He is helped along by his appointed conscience Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), as they try to navigate the world and avoid the many dangers that lurk right outside the idyllic Italian village.
It would be really easy to rip this movie apart; it tries to recapture the magic of the original but fails spectacularly by failing to nail the magic that made the animated film such an instant classic. The songs are essentially given the Tik Tok treatment, shaved within an inch of their life, with new and unnecessary ones squashed in that offer nothing new of substance. Each set piece, like Pleasure Island, Stromboli’s travelling circus and Monstro, fail to capture the sense of danger and wonder that the original film did so successfully. This could be in part to the alterations. Pleasure Island for boys is now gender neutral, Monstro has flapping tentacles looking like a creature from that god-awful movie Monster Trucks and then there’s Tom Hanks accent. I would not have believed that after Elvis that he could sink any lower, yet here we are. The acting felt like everyone was in a community production of Pinocchio and all the budget was given to the visuals team.
Fortunately, the visuals are so incredibly beautiful that you can almost forgive the shortfalls of the rest of the film. Pinocchio himself is an achievement in animation. The way he blends in with the real-world setting is seamless. The Blue Fairy stuns as her blue shimmers in the nighttime scene (and the performance from Erivo is nothing short of spectacular!) Keegan Michael Key lends his voice to Honest John, which is also a high point of the film. The Roger Rabbit-style antics in this scene provide a much-needed high point. The interaction between all three characters and getting Pinocchio to Stromboli is short but a beautiful showcase of placing extremely well-animated characters in the real world. A new character Sofia the Seagull (Lorraine Bracco), doesn’t really offer much to validate her existence in the film. She is a friend of Jiminy and helps the duo reunite with Gepetto. Regrettably, this isn’t enough to recommend this movie.
The new songs try their best to justify their existence, but there are no memorable songs in the new batch that anyone will be talking about 50 years from now. Additionally, the classic songs from the original, like When You Wish Upon A Star, while performed beautifully, are essentially a 30-second Tik Tok video homage. Luke Evans plays The Coachmen, owner and transport for Pleasure Island, and while his voice is solid and make-up looks spectacular, the song The Coachman to Pleasure Island is another misfire and adds nothing to the overall story.
Director Robert Zemeckis should have had a slam dunk with this; the story felt like a zombified version of the original with some new ideas carelessly thrown in for good measure. While the visuals are incredibly beautiful, the same amount of care and attention should have been given to the script and songs for this updated version. Add this to the list of lacklustre remakes that seem to be plaguing the studio for the last few years.
Pinocchio is now streaming on Disney +
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