Disney has given Pinocchio the live-action treatment so please prepare yourself to be horrified again by children turning into donkeys.
The fact that Disney isn’t lifting the review embargo until the film’s Disney+ launch means they don’t have much faith in it. In all fairness, it would have gotten a theatrical release but then Covid meant releasing the film on Disney+. While Robert Zemeckis directs the film, it’s hard to believe that Sam Mendes and Paul King were attached as directors once upon a time.
With Zemeckis at the helm, it means both Tom Hanks and Alan Silvestri comes along for the ride, too. Silvestri composes the score and pens some new tunes with Glen Ballard but the major classics (When You Wish Upon a Star,” “I’ve Got No Strings” and “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me)”) are here, too. They just get a tune-up for the 21st century. All in all, the script and credits add 17 minutes to the 1940 film’s 88-minute run time. It’s unlike Dumbo, which added nearly a full hour of length. Seventeen minutes is just enough time to add some songs here and there while padding out some other sequences.
You know the story. Geppetto (Tom Hanks) is a carpenter who builds Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). In classic tradition, he wishes upon a star for the wooden puppet to come to life and the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) makes the wish come true. He treats him like a real boy, sending him to school and everything. But just like the animated classic, the titular puppet has run-ins with Honest John (Keegan-Michael Key), a deceptive fox who partners with a silent cat, Gideon. Even with Jiminy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) serving as his conscience, Pinocchio ends up joining Stromboli’s (Giuseppe Battiston) puppet show. There’s some changes here and there but he still ends up on Pleasure Island. The Pleasure Island scenes will never not be horrifying. Live-action, animation, doesn’t matter. The sequences are what fuel our nightmares.
Pleasure Island gets the biggest update for the 21st century. Gone are cigarettes and beer. Instead, they have a sugar rush, root beer, and then some. The other update is the ending. Whether it sits well with audiences or not remains to be determined. I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder.
Let me say this about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s voicework as Jiminy Cricket–it is completely unrecognizable. If I didn’t know any better, I would have said that they found a way to restore the Cliff Edwards vocals for the live-action treatment. That’s he’s completely unrecognizable speaks to the work that he put into the role. As for the rest of the cast, they’re fine.
At some point, you can’t help but feel that Disney is just remaking animated classics into live-action just because they can. Is it because of copyright law? I don’t know. It’s not like they’re doing it for the money since the newer ones are going straight to Disney+. The filmmakers don’t pad too much length to the film and aside from some songs and other changes, it feels like you’re watching a remixed version of the animated film–just in live-action.
DIRECTOR: Robert Zemeckis
SCREENWRITERS: Robert Zemeckis & Chris Weitz
CAST: Tom Hanks, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Keegan-Michael Key, Lorraine Bracco, with Cynthia Erivo and Luke Evans
Disney+ will launch Pinocchio on September 8, 2022. Grade: 3.5/5
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