Hi-diddle-dee-dee another Disney redo for thee!
As the years roll on, it seems like the “live action” Disney remake train of their animated classics collection is chugging away merrier than ‘ol Steamboat Willie! Though, The House of Mouse’s latest attempt at recapturing the vintage sparkle is a mighty big one, as 1940 classic Pinocchio is not just another classic but adapted a legendary 1883 story in its own right and was the film responsible for Disney’s now iconic “Wish upon a star” ident riff (as this new film openly acknowledges in its opening). So, is 2022’s Disney+ take a wooden imitation or a real boy?
Well, you know the story, elderly woodcarver Geppetto (Tom Hanks) yearns for the marionette Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) he has crafted - here based on his deceased son - to be a real boy. A bit of blue fairy (Cynthia Erivo) magic later and he is a walking talking wooden boy who, alongside his newly appointed conscience Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is about to go on an adventure of truth, consequences, bravery and life!
From director Robert Zemeckis, 2022’s Pinocchio is, of course, unnecessary and inferior to the landmark animated original but in the Disney live-action remakes line, it probably measures up reasonably well for a young contemporary audience. Though aiming largely for a closer take, there are some slight very modernised alterations to the tale, some which work rather well (new characters like Kyanne Lamaya’s sweet-natured puppeteer Fabiana), some which are painfully forced (that influencer reference…shudder) and some that are not really required (smoke beasts & monsters) but overall Robert Zemeckis’ heart is in the right place.
The grand CGI visuals are truly astonishing and painstakingly realised, working in rather beautiful harmony alongside Alan Silvestri’s lovely soundtrack, creating a film that would have been effective aesthetically on the big screen. Though you can possibly see why it headed to a smaller one instead.
The performances are likewise effective, meaning that the audio-visual crackle, also has some pop, with some of the story’s classic characters being well rendered in live action. Tom Hanks’ kind eccentric Gepetto, Erivo’s loving Fairy and Luke Evans’ sinister child catching Coachman stand out, while others are quite faithfully brought to life by the effects/voicework (Pinocchio himself, Jiminy Cricket, Figaro and Cleo), though the show stealer is the flamboyantly caddish Honest John (Keegan-Michael Key) and his dopey cohort Gideon!
Overall Pinocchio is a mixed bag but enjoyable enough fare, that has clearly had a lot of work poured into it, and a lot of effort to update aspects of the story but also keep it classically simple, even if ironically it over-complicates some things. Guillermo del Toro’s Netflix take on the tale will likely be the year’s better wooden boy story but still, while Pinocchio may not always work, Zemeckis gives you more than enough to gaze at, even if he doesn’t always manage to give you enough to fully feel, but it is certainly not the entirely soulless corporate entity some have made it out to be. Hey at least it’s not Ralph Breaks The Internet!PINOCCHIO is out now on Disney+