Pinocchio is the latest remake to come from Disney Studies and this time is written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, who you might recognise for directing films like Back to the Future, The Polar Express, and one of the films I liked in recent memory- The Walk, featuring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Zemeckis is a director I really like, because even when he makes flops they’re at least interesting flops. His failed attempt to get motion-capture animation to take off in Mars Needs Moms (which I wasn’t a fan of), or his adaptation of A Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey playing Scrooge as well as all of the ghosts- which I am actually a defender of, since it puts in a lot of details from the book that other adaptations miss out, thought I will also grant that there’s a lot wrong with that film.
When I heard he was taking on Pinocchio I actually thought that the fim stood somewhat of a chance, since he does know how to direct special effects, what usually goes wrong is that it’s not a good execution of said effects.
Pinocchio, though, has not gone to cinemas, but straight to Disney Plus. Fortunately, unlike the last film I can remember that went to Disney Plus in this way (the live action remake of Mulan) it doesn’t charge extra to view and is part of your subscription. However, I’m reminded of another film that was meant to get a cinematic release and was instead sent straight to Disney Plus, Artemis Fowl, which was a disaster.
I personally believe that there is a level of studio mandates that interfere in these projects, which has come into my reviews of these live action remakes, because I’ve described a lot of these as ‘toothless’ and bare-boned imitations of the original films. So it’s no surprise that Pinocchio has that quality as well.
The plot is identical. We have a situation similar to Beauty and the Beast (2017) and the Lion King (2019), although at least it’s not a complete shot-for-shot remake of the original. There’s certainly elements of that since there’s not a lot different here,except for when Pinocchio is taken by the Ringmaster, Stromboli (Giuseppe Battiston), he befriends a puppeteer named Fabiana (Kyanne Lamaya) but her role might as well be nonexistent. She’s barely in the movie and impacts virtually nothing. In fact, I think she’s only in 3 or 4 scenes in the entire movie. Other than that, they added a couple of extra songs- both of which are from the Coachmaster (Luke Evans) who takes the kids to Pleasure Island. You’d think that Luke Evans would have learnt his lesson after being written terribly as Gaston in the Beauty and the Beast remake.
That’s all that I can think of, there’s not really much else.. There’s some elements that have been removed, the kids aren’t smoking anymore and it’s clarified that they’re drinking root beer, which I don’t understand why that contributes to them being bad.. It feels like they should have cut that element entirely instead of making it more confusing. This is practically the exact same film, except for some references that will probably age terribly that Honest John (Keegan-Michael Key) makes. Frankly, they waste the talent of Keegan-Michael Key.. he deserves a better movie than this.
The plots pretty much the same, Geppetto (Tom Hanks) creates a little wooden puppet and makes a wish upon a star, the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) grants his wish and makes Pinocchio come alive, when he is then played by Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who feels very miscasted in this role when you first see him, though he eventually comes into the role as the film goes on). Jiminy offers to be Pinnochio’s conscience, which leads to Pinocchio being led to join a circus by Honest John, hijinks that you remember from the original film ensue.
A couple things I liked: the kid playing Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) is very good in the role and sounds a lot like the original voice actor. I also can see that Tom Hanks is trying his hardest in the role despite the fact that it’s hard to separate his persona with the character that he’s playing. It does just look like it’s Tom Hanks dressed up as Geppetto. There’s a small change that implies that he creates Pinocchio due to loneliness, perhaps from his wife dying or the implied death of his son- which never really goes anywhere after the wish is granted.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn’t great as Jiminy Cricket, but it does get better later on in the film. He does a great impression of the original voice but it’s almost too good, I wonder why you’d even hire him for this role when you can’t even tell it’s him- there is a good way to strike a middle balance between the actor and the character, for example Idris Elba’s performance as Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic 2.
That’s all I have for positive notes because this film is a dumpster fire. The jokes don’t land, the plot feels like it’s taken out all chances for Pinocchio to be bad, in fact, he’s never really allowed to cross any sort of line. The film nearly gets him there, but it makes you wonder why Jiminy is there at all, since he seems to have a conscience already.
The plot is really toothless and has terrible jokes that don’t work. The effects are terrible! Tom Hanks gave a good performance considering that most of the time he’s performing with CGI animations that don’t work at all. Pinocchio is at least decently expressive but there’s definitely an uncanny valley effect there, because the puppet they make in this is made to look exactly like the puppet from the original film.. It doesn’t look great with updated animations. Even all of the animals are animated! None of them look convincing. Figaro, the cat, is a particularly bad effect. I was staggered that they couldn’t find a trained cat that looked like the one from the original to do some of the parts. I know that the cat does extremely cartoony things in the animated film, but that’s not something that you necessarily need for this. The cat doesn’t really do much of anything that would need it to be CGI.
What’s more, all of the clocks look terrible, especially considering the fact that they all reference Disney films of some sort.
The film looks so fake.. I’m just constantly seeing the CGI backdrops that are put in place, and as a result I had trouble getting into the film and analysing it for what it is. It feels like a lot of the morals of the film aren’t here anymore. Pinocchio never really pays for the consequences of his actions, because he’s not really done any bad actions! He does slightly bad things, in fact after the first sequence with Honest John he actually makes it to school only to get kicked out because he’s a wooden boy.. Which I thought is a really odd reaction to a talking puppet, but I digress.
The only effect that I kind of liked was Monstro, who actually looks a bit out of place for this film- they’ve given him a sort of Lovecraftian angle to him, but as a result, he looks like he should be in a video game like bloodborne or Elden Ring, not a Disney movie!
I also think that this film was hit by serious budget and editorial mandate issues, because it doesn’t really have an ending, it sort of just stops. It’s quite a short film, it only runs for about an hour and twenty minutes. The film also kind of changes the ending and I really don’t think that it works at all, especially considering it didn’t seem that the film was going for that up until that point.
I seriously can’t believe that Robert Zemeckis directed this. He’s had some flops, but you at least usually get a sense that he had some competency in the process. I don’t get that feeling at all in this one. Most of his care and attention to detail isn’t really in this film.
What’s more, it’s dull! It’s so dull!! That’s a big common thread that I’m seeing with a lot of these live action remakes. I’m seeing live action stars failing terribly to recapture the past in a way that someone at the Disney studios should be saying, ‘Guys, this clearly isn’t working’!
Pinocchio is a dumpster fire of a movie, I really hated it. It seems to have completely missed the original point of action and consequences, and doesn’t really do anything well. The acting is okay, but everyone is terribly written, the effects are crap, and this has clearly been put in front of a Disney exec who could tell they wouldn’t make the money back, so they just stuck it on Disney Plus. It left a ton of things unexplored, and this is a waste of time. If you have subscribed to Disney Plus already, don’t even waste your bandwidth on this one. The entire Ducktales reboot is on Disney Plus, go watch that instead, it’s better for your kids. At least with that, they’re getting good quality entertainment.
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