Pinocchio (2022) Movie Review
Robert Zemeckis' live-action take of Disney’s animated classic from 1940, is nothing more than a copy-paste version of the original, with no innovation whatsoever!
Genre: Adventure / Comedy / Drama
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Tom Hanks, Keegan-Michael Key, Giuseppe Battiston, Kyanne Lamaya, Luke Evans, Lewin Lloyd & Cinthia Erivo.
Run Time: 111 min.
US Release: 08 September 2022 (Disney+)
UK Release: 08 September 2022 (Disney+)
German Release: 08 September 2022 (Disney+)
Another year, another Disney live-action release. Zemeckis' take on the studio’s original from 1940, is sadly a wasted opportunity, proving that the House of Mouse is nothing more than a cash-grabbing machine. The development of this remake dates back as far as 2015 but saw a revolving door of directors, who came and left the project immediately. No wonder, as it looks like Disney restrained the regisseurs creatively. Finally, after seven years, the feature was released on the studio’s online platform. So, grab your puppets and sit back on this wild ride, as I explain to you why Pinocchio is a hard pass.
Given that this is a rehash of an animated film from 1940, I will not hold back on spoilers!
— WARNING, THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS! —
Inventor and toy-maker Gepetto creates a wooden marionette called Pinocchio. The puppet is brought to life by a fairy, who appoints Jiminy Cricket to act as Pinocchio's "conscience" and assigns the wooden boy to lead a virtuous life in order to become real. However, Pinocchio keeps getting deceived, which leads to him getting into trouble.
Let me start by saying that I am used to much better movies from Robert Zemeckis because what he delivered here is an absolute travesty. Having gotten that out of the way, I also think that Disney did not give the director much wiggle room for creativity! What Disney attempted was a point-for-point rehash of their animated picture, but adding plot points and stretching the story by changing specific things, to obtain a longer runtime, which simply doesn’t work. At times, even the spirit of the beloved classic is affected by these changes.
This feels like the most uninspired live-action adaptation of the current Disney treadmill, and this is saying something as the competition is pretty stiff. Ever since Favreau’s The Jungle Book, these titles have been slowly diminishing in quality, however, Pinnochio really hits rock bottom! The beautiful cuckoo clocks scene from the original is turned into shameless self-promotion, with characters from several Disney flicks appearing in the clocks. The segment, in which the wooden boy is tempted by lying, is twisted to explain that lying can get you out of tricky situations; not exactly a message you want your kids to learn!
That said, there are at times aspects in the story that I like, though, sadly dropped quickly or have no effect on the overall outcome. Geppeto’s short-told side-arc is the one with the greatest potential! Losing his wife and son is what drives him to carve Pinocchio in the first place. He tries to mend the hole in his heart with a puppet that is supposed to mimic his son in appearance. The side-story about the puppeteer in Stromboli’s crew also showed promise, yet was dropped along the second act, just to randomly pop up again later, for no reason. Both arcs would have benefited Pinocchio if more time had been invested in them.
The performances are mostly good, some even spot on with the original, however, there are others that border on being cringy, sucking one straight out of the visionary experience. The blue fairy for instance; the character who made the story possible in the first place, is reduced to a quirky afterthought.
Pinocchio, voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, is the persona that diverges the most from the classic animation. While in the original he is gullible and easily persuaded, as he is newly “born”, Pinocchio is driven out of necessity into bad situations in this remake. He practically knows right from wrong from the beginning, making him unlikeable during certain decision-making moments. He is a Gary Stu, who is being taken hostage into doing things he doesn’t want to, rendering the whole point of the story moot. Ainsworth does a good job at recreating Pinocchio’s voice, though it doesn’t save the role.
Tom Hanks as Geppeto, gives one of his weakest performances. He isn’t terribly bad but he obviously has no passion for the character either; it feels as if he is simply doing it for the paycheck. The chemistry with Pinocchio, the child he carved out of wood, is wonky and not quite believable. The character himself obtains a better fleshed-out backstory that explains why he carved the puppet in the first place, as well as why he cares so deeply for him.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is lending his voice to Jiminy Cricket, plus does a fantastic job at doing so! He nailed the tone and feel of the classic drawn anthropomorphic insect, who became a staple of the House of Mouse! Jiminy is in fact the best persona in the whole film, taking away the spotlight of the actual main character. He is smart, likeable and takes his job of protecting the living puppet seriously, although his constant fourth-wall breaking can become somewhat of a nuisance from time to time. I also think that he is the best animated of all CGI characters.
Cinematographically speaking, this is a fine-looking movie with solid camera work. The perspective shots from Jiminy Cricket bring audiences closer to the character, as we experienced everything with him for the first time. The visual change in tone, when arriving at Pleasure Island, added a good feeling of discomfort, which was missing from the picture so far. The colour palette is vibrant, at times even a little too saturated, making it a little uneven when it changes to a more blue-tinted, darker atmosphere, in situations of danger.
With all that Disney money the studio usually puts into their projects, one would have thought that the effects would look better. Yet, computer-generated effects do feel quite iffy at times. The living puppet’s design itself is occasionally badly rendered plus looks fake, the same goes for the characters of Cleo and Figaro, who were designed after the 40s animation, but look horrible as CGI figures. On the other hand, the set design and costumes look amazing! Tom Hanks’ make-up and wardrobe is a masterclass in bringing the hand-drawn character to life.
Composer Alan Silvestri created the music for this Disney tale, recreating famous songs such as “When you Wish Upon a Star”, which became the studio's hymn for its introductory scene. While other, not-so-memorable songs, were exchanged with new compositions that sounded even worse.
Verdict: Robert Zemeckis’ take on Disney’s version of Carlo Collodi’s fairytale, is a hollow, shallow shell of the 40s animated feature. The plot is being stretched from a runtime of 88 minutes to 111 minutes, padding it out with side stories that showed promise but are ultimately dropped immediately to forward the soulless narrative. The essence of Pinocchio has changed, as the character himself is turned into a Gary Stu, while Tom Hanks gives a lacklustre performance as Geppeto. The best character is Jiminy Cricket, thanks to the good voice acting by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The cinematography is solid, however, most of the visual effects lack quality, especially the CG for the main character. Finally, the recreation of the classic film score brings up some nostalgic feelings, yet the new songs are uninspired just like the final product! Pinocchio obtains a subpar 4.0 out of 10 - In the words of Honest John: Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee, this is a hard pass for me!
So, have you seen this Disney live-action remake yet? What are your thoughts on it? Thank you for reading and don’t forget to subscribe!