Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Premise: A remake of Disney’s 1940 animated film. Woodworker Geppetto (Tom Hanks) creates a marionette of a boy (voice of Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). The puppet is brought to life but he must prove himself worthy of becoming a real boy.
What Works: The voice casting of this version of Pinocchio is on point. The cast are well matched with their roles and bring a distinct personality to their characters. This is especially true of Keegan-Michael Key as the swindler Honest John. He’s only in a couple of scenes but they are some of the best and funniest moments in the whole film. Also notable is Cynthia Erivo as the Blue Fairy. Erivo gets to sing the classic song “When You Wish Upon a Star” and it’s the one standout musical moment in the picture.
What Doesn’t: Like 2017’s Beauty and the Beast and 2019’s The Lion King, the 2022 version of Pinocchio is a very literal remake of its predecessor. The new movie isn’t really live action because so much of it is digitally animated but it does have a live action look. And like Disney’s other efforts at remaking their classic animated films, Pinocchio suffers from the adaptation. A lot of things that worked in traditional animation do not transfer to the live action style. That’s especially evident in the animal characters which reveals the incoherence of the filmmakers’ approach. Some of the animals talk to each other but others do not and a few speak to Pinocchio while others can’t. Honest John is a fast-talking bipedal fox who was part of the 1940 animated feature. He’s retained here for fan service but his presence makes no sense within the realistic style in which this Pinocchio is made. This is lazy and ill-considered world building. The transition to live action also highlights Pinocchio’s narrative weaknesses. The story is episodic but the whimsy of the animated film disguised that problem. The new version draws attention to the flimsy storytelling and the movie feels like a string of cameos. 2022’s Pinocchio adds a new character, a female puppeteer played by Sheila Atim, but nothing really comes of her subplot except making this movie longer. The new version of Pinocchio also looks terrible especially when viewed in 4K resolution. It’s gaudy and plastic and rarely feels organic. At best, it looks like an exhibit at one of Disney’s theme parks. For a movie that is supposed to emulate live action it often looks cartoonish. As a result, 2022’s Pinocchio comes across artificial in a way that the 1940 film never did. It’s also emotionally flat. There is no sense of stakes or father-son love between Geppetto and Pinocchio. In retracing the original movie, the new version of Pinocchio drains the story of charm and excitement.
Disc extras: On Disney+.
Bottom Line: Disney’s remake of Pinocchio is another soulless cash grab by the studio. It’s an ugly looking movie that never justifies its own existence. There’s no reason to watch this especially when the 1940 film is readily available.
Episode: #917 (September 11, 2022)