September 8th, 2022
STARRING: TOM HANKS, BENJAMIN EVAN AINSWORTH, JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT, CYNTHIA ERIVO, LUKE EVANS
DIRECTED BY: ROBERT ZEMECKIS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
For the fat cats sitting on the other side of the table at Disney, one has to admit, the business model they have concocted is a pretty good one. It’s incredibly lazy and reveals just how gullible they think their audience is and they continue to be proven right with every new rehash they put together of their classic animated films. Robert Zemeckis’ Pinocchio is not the worst of the bunch by a long shot- that award still goes to the shot-for-shot remake of The Lion King– but it still melts together with the rest of them. From Beauty and the Beast, Lady and the Tramp, and Aladdin, they’re all just filling space, with brief moments of highs, many moments of lows, but never truly nailing the reason why they should exist in the first place. This Pinocchio has Tom Hanks, some sweet moments, and a big ending with the massive whale Monstro. It has all the bells and whistles to be the real thing but it ends up being a hollow remake of the original.
It’s a story we all know by heart at this point, a lonely Geppetto (Hanks) works in his shop in a small town, with his friendly cat Figaro, the pleasantly spinning goldfish Cleo, and various clocks ticking on the wall. In his crafting time he starts to build a wooden boy, at this time the camera scans the room, and we see a photo of a child, hinting at the possibility that in his past Geppetto had a family of his own. What follows is the bright wishing star in the sky, a wish is made, and soon a fairy (Cynthia Erivo) comes from the sky to bring Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) to life. Little Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is there by his side as his conscience. There’s a rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star”, followed by the warnings of listening to that little voice, and being good so he can become “a real boy”. All the notes are hit and the adventure for Pinocchio begins the minute he steps outside his door.
Truth be told, I had recently revisited the 1940 version, watching it with my son for the first time, and to this very day that version holds up. It’s visually loaded with character and life, with the various details on Geppetto’s cuckoo clocks, and personality on each individual character- both human or furry friend. In this 2022 version all of that texture has been removed, with a glossy coat of CGI added to brighten and renew the product. In some departments that works, as Pinocchio looks and sounds the part, while the sets around him brighten up to a grandiose allure, making the puppet without strings a delight to go along with. It’s within that same breath where the CGI is over the top, as green screen sets continue to rob audiences of what could be a tangible world brought to life. Unlike Tim Burton’s Dumbo which elaborated on the theatrics of the circus, this Pinocchio goes from one green screen to the next, rendering all visuals plastic.
What won’t be denied by audiences is that Tom Hanks will win your heart over, playing the mustachioed father with a happiness that radiates off the screen, and dipping into his comedy roots once again. Without Hanks, however, the majority of Pinocchio is a loss, as the screenplay by Chris Weitz and Simon Farnaby only enhance a few moments, making a Pinocchio that is more in tune with right from wrong, needing Jiminy less as he runs into trouble, but still succumbing to the dreaded turning to a donkey on Pleasure Island. No matter how grand the narrative shifts, none of the adjustments are worthy enough for this Pinocchio to separate itself from countless other iterations, and this comes when Guillermo del Toro has his own stop-motion version arriving from Netflix soon. Even one thing is certain: we have plenty of Pinocchio’s.
As far as the direction goes, Pinocchio is a well intentioned installment from Robert Zemeckis, but after various failures such as The Witches, The Walk, and now this, it has become evident that the director of Back to the Future is missing out on a dose of original creativity. The strings are off, with Tom Hanks still being a delight and much for the kids to enjoy. And still, this Pinocchio is mediocre at best. It won’t stop Disney though. They will someday be able to express their need for a remake of every Disney animated movie. Until then, I’ll wait for the live-action version of The Little Mermaid, as the business model continues to merrily roll along. Disney could never leave money on the table. They all just want to become real boys.
PINOCCHIO IS STREAMING ON DISNEY+ ON THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2022.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady