As Disney has promised, they have continued with their series of remakes of their animated classics in a live-action/CGI format. For their remake of their 1940 animated film Pinocchio, Disney producers have tasked filmmaker Robert Zemeckis with the challenge of translating the classic Italian fairy tale. So far, all of the Disney live-action/CGI remakes have received mixed reactions. Some have been better than others. The better ones, such as Cinderella, Mulan, and particularly Pete’s Dragon have taken the stories in some exciting and enjoyable directions. Others, on the other hand, have either fallen flat on their faces or, simply, come across as repeats of what has been done previously through skillful animation and exceptional storytelling.
As for this version of the Pinocchio tale, Zemeckis and his team have done solid work in recreating the beats and moments which made the original tale and Disney’s previous adaptation great. However, as far as offering audiences a bold new experience, that is where Zemeckis’ version falls mostly short.
This movie version pretty much follows the expected story of the magical puppet Pinocchio and his adventures in becoming a “real boy.” The story takes where, in Italy, the talented artisan and clock maker Geppetto (Tom Hanks) is lonely and longs for a lost family of a wife and child, both of whom are long gone. In his sadness, Geppetto crafts a marionette puppet which looks similar to his lost boy. The craftsman wishes upon a star that he can have a real child and he awakens to discover that his wish has come true.
And as predicted, a singing Blue Fairy (Cynthia Ervio) brings Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) to life, but encourages the living puppet to carefully live his life properly, according to his conscience. Since the very naive marionette has no conscience of his own, Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who happens to be in the right place at the right time, is charged with assisting Pinocchio with his judgment calls.
What pretty much follows is almost exactly what happens in the 1940 animated movie. Through CGI and modern filmmaking, the same story gets retold with a few changes here and there, for better and for worse. At the end of the day, 2022’s Pinocchio comes close to capturing the magic of the original film, but lacks the same convicition and never drives home the same messages to children that the original movie does. Messages about the motives of strangers and honesty never completely get delivered. In fact, the whole payoff of the movie doesn’t quite happen, which I feel is a very odd choice given the stakes of the entire adventure.
As far as the aesthetics are concerned, the movie looks fairly good. Superficially, that is fine. However, this movie never really rises above what has been done previously. I am afraid to say that Zemeckis and his screenwriters, never do anything particularly exciting with the material. The movie comes across like Gus Van Sant’s version of Psycho. It definitely makes me ask, why was the movie even made?
That is not to say that the whole experience was horrible or unbearable. I watched this movie a couple of days after revisiting the original Disney version, and still enjoyed moments of it. I even enjoyed the voice work by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Keegan-Michael Key, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, and the live-action performances by Tom Hanks and Cynthia Erivo, but at the end of it all, it feels all like an exercise in futility. Why is so much effort, work, and talent is getting invested in a movie that is not building on what has been done previously.
If I were to recommend Robert Zemeckis’ Pinocchio, it would be as a curiosity piece. That is the only reason I would recommend Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. Honestly, DIsney really needs to reconsider their approach when it comes to their remakes. I don’t understand how they can get behind the creation of an exceptional remake like David Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon (2016) and then greenlight multiple remakes that are redundant and weak when it comes to movie magic.