Pinocchio is the latest live-action adaptation of a Disney classic, now available to watch on Disney+. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, this is the first of two Pinocchio adaptations to hit out screens in as many months, with Guillermo Del Toro’s stop motion version due in October. Unfortunately, this version fails to live up to the original and is overall a very lacklustre retelling.
The film is narrated by Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who finds himself seeking warmth and shelter in a toy workshop. Here he finds Geppetto (Tom Hanks) working on a wooden puppet that he intends to look like a real boy, like the son he lost. Alongside his faithful cat Figaro and goldfish Cleo, Geppetto names the puppet Pinocchio and as he goes to bed, wishes on a star for a real boy.
The clock tolls midnight and the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) appears, granting Pinocchio life and promising him that he can be a real boy so long as he remains brave, truthful and selfless. She also appoints Jiminy as Pinocchio’s conscience. Geppetto is shocked to find Pinocchio is alive when he awakens, but soon warms to the boy and after a few days, decides to send him to school. On his way to school, Pinocchio is met by Honest John (Keegan-Michael Key) and his partner Gideon, who convince Pinocchio that to be a real boy he needs to be famous when really their true intention is to sell him to Stromboli’s puppet show.
Despite Jiminy’s best efforts, Pinocchio agrees to go to Stromboli’s. He performs for the crowds and is a success, but Stromboli locks him up in a cage afterwards to prevent him from leaving. Fortunately, Pinocchio is able to break free thanks to some help from Jiminy and Stromboli’s employee, but on his way home he’s captured by the Coachman, who’s driving a coach full of children to Pleasure Island where they can misbehave to their hearts content. Meanwhile, Geppetto is searching for Pinocchio with some help from seagull Sofia (Lorraine Bracco), and soon Pinocchio must prove himself to save his father.
I have very fond memories of the original Pinocchio animation, mostly because it absolutely terrified me, and yet I still loved it. Sadly this remake doesn’t evoke the same emotions and in fact, there’s little emotion here at all. The entire film feels very lacklustre and dull and doesn’t have the same vibrancy and emotion as the original. There’s a lot of colour, but it’s all very flat and isn’t helped by the over-reliance on some very sketchy CGI. The CGI and live-action don’t gel together very well and it makes for a difficult watch, especially as the CGI is so bad. Pinocchio himself doesn’t look too bad, albeit he still looks more like he’s jumped out of an animated film rather than like a real puppet but poor Figaro the cat looks terrible and none of the other characters or backdrops looks particularly great either.
I’m usually a fan of Tom Hanks but he just felt he was dialling it in here. Joseph Gordon-Levitt brings some heart as Jiminy and Cynthia Erivo has a brief yet brilliant part as the Blue Fairy, but the rest of the cast are let down by the dodgy script and overall lacklustre storytelling. This entire film just feels very bland and this is never more apparent than in the films third act. Pleasure Island and the ensuing encounter with Monstro were horrifying and so incredibly dark and scary in the original film, but here they’re nothing. The donkeys are just laughably bad thanks to the CGI and while Luke Evans’ coachman is amusing, Pinocchio’s adventures are nowhere near the thing of nightmares that they should be. Monstro too was something to be feared, but here it’s a CGI mess of a monster that isn’t even a proper whale. And the fact that they’ve changed the overall ending is a massive misstep.
I went into this open-minded having not seen the trailer and feeling hopeful for a live-action Disney adaptation that might be decent for a change. But sadly the end result is a dull, heartless affair that has few redeeming qualities.
A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!