Disney’s remake of the 1940 film falls flat despite its star-studded cast.
Watching a live action Disney remake can be reminiscent of riding a classic Disney park ride after it’s been refurbished. If done well, it will remind you of everything you loved about the original. Evoke a sense of nostalgia. Add a little bit of flavor to the outdated elements while still feeling like a warm hug of an experience. Unless, of course, the refurbishment happens to bring attention to the fact that maybe it’s just time to close the ride.
Much like its Disneyland attraction, Pinocchio (2022) is, unfortunately, the latter.
Despite its promising elements- the beautiful costume and production designs that have become a signature of the live action Disney remakes, an impressive lineup of a cast, and generally impressive blend of 3D animation and live action- Pinocchio falls flat.
There are a number of different factors working against it. While the lineup of leading actors for this film are impressive on paper, their inexplicable need to mimic the characters of the 1940 animated film come across as gimmicky and unnatural. There is something about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s sincere attempt at recreating Cliff Edwards’s iconic Jiminy Cricket voice that feels off-putting. Keegan-Michael Key’s work as Honest John is the strongest of the cast, but it’s unfortunately underused. However, Tom Hanks’s performance is the most confusing. Coming fresh of the heels of his take on Colonel Tom Parker in Elvis (2022), there is something about Hanks’ pseudo-European accent that just does not make sense. While it is clear that he is trying to emulate Christian Rub’s performance from the original Disney film, there is something about Hanks’ spin on the lonely toy maker that feels almost comical, and not in the way the film intends.
However, the film ultimately suffers most from its inability to decide what kind of remake it wants to be. The better Disney live action remakes, such as Cinderella (2015) and Beauty and the Beast (2017), manage to strike a good balance of paying homage to their animated counterparts while still adding something new to the story. If anything, these live action remakes have provided Disney the opportunity to atone for outdated or problematic elements of the original films. Pinocchio misses the mark completely on this. There are many scenes that play almost like a shot-for-shot remake of the original, while the “new” elements come across as either cheesy or too on the nose (no pun intended). Even the shot for shot remake scenes fall flat, as they miss any element of charm that can be found in the original. For example, the sequence in which Monstro the whale chases Pinocchio and Geppetto through the ocean is one of the more stunning parts of the 1940 film- the artistic value of the animation holds up. In this remake, it plays more like a Fast & Furious sequence for kids.
And in terms of messaging, do not expect to find anything new here. While one could argue that the “moral” of the animated film is the importance of remaining truthful and listening to your little insect conscience, this film seems more dead set on warning children about the dangers of child acting.
The music for this film is also lacking. While the familiar songs of the original remain (Cynthia Erivo singing “When You Wish Upon a Star” is a bright spot here), the new songs feel half baked and forgettable.
All in all, Pinocchio plays a bit like a direct-to-video movie of the early 2000s (while still managing to pale in comparison to Geppetto (2000), the actual direct-to-video remake of Pinocchio). It keeps all the weakest points from the animated film (don’t worry, the children-being-turned-into-donkeys scene is just as terrifying in this movie!), while failing to offer anything new beyond forgettable songs or unnecessary new characters. While Tom Hanks appears to be having as much fun as he can with this role, there is something about his performance that feels a touch too gimmicky. The movie itself feels quickly and haphazardly thrown together, which is unfortunate given its potential.
We’ll have to see if Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, set to drop later this year will fare any better. Though, this one certainly sets the bar low.
Should be Considered: None
Release Date: September 8, 2022
Where to Watch: Disney+
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett
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