Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Starring Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Tom Hanks, Luke Evans, Cynthia Erivo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Keegan-Michael Key, Lorraine Bracco, Kyanne Lamaya, Jaquita Ta’le, Lewin Lloyd, Giuseppe Battiston, and Sheila Atim.
A wooden puppet embarks on an exciting adventure to become a real boy.
The live action/CGI hybrid pinocchio remake (based on Disney’s Oscar-winning animated classic and Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio stories) is unhinged, which, if nothing else, is a respite from the lifeless mind daze (how many of these modern take on Disney tales seem to be going by lately).
Take Tom Hanks as the reclusive woodcarver Geppetto, who, in animated form, appears whimsical and relatively sane despite trying to bring a wooden doll to life. Here, that same footage (directed by Robert Zemeckis from a script by Chris Weitz and Simon Farnaby) paints Geppetto as a raving lunatic who should be committed to the nearest mental hospital in this Italian town.
In a way, this is also an oblique compliment because it infers that Tom Hanks is giving a crazy performance. It’s a twist in which the legendary actor essentially puts on a lunatic one-man play for the first 20 minutes, trying to dramatically sell his loneliness as he wishes Pinocchio would come to life, all while talking to his cat and goldfish (the which are rendered with hideous special effects that contain no personality at all).
As usual, our guide for this is once again the bug Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who finds himself escaping the cold and entering Geppetto’s workshop in search of warmer weather. He casually observes all of the above while navigating various ledges and objects as if it were a platformer.
Sure, it looks good but similar to Robert Zemeckis’ earlier effort, The witches (and several other flaws in its mixed catalog made more frustrating by the notion that it once made arguably the best live-action/animation hybrid film, who killed roger rabbit), is calculated in a distracting way and seems to have no purpose other than to show what these technical wizards can accomplish.
However, Cynthia Erivo arrives as a CGI interpretation of the Blue Fairy, looking like an ugly hologram. Thankfully, her questionable animation decisions can’t take away from her superbly soothing singing voice, with her rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star” being one of the film’s highlights. She has such a commanding and winning screen presence, even in this horribly animated form, that it’s a wonder why the writers didn’t find more to do in this version.
Once the wish is granted, it falls to Jiminy Cricket to serve as Pinocchio’s conscience (voiced by relative newcomer Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). Confused but happy that he now has a boy, Geppetto and Pinocchio bond for a brief montage before the former decides it is time to send the boy to school. Naturally, this is also where Jiminy’s work is first put to the test.
Unfortunately, the school does not go well, as the children and the principal taunt Pinocchio before kicking him out, who then gets separated from Jiminy and inadvertently embarks on a series of misadventures. Geppetto is also searching for his missing child, with all roads leading to an encounter with the sea creature Monstro, another classic animated character turned into tasteless CGI slime.
For those unaware of the traditional story, Pinocchio’s dream is to become a real boy, which he believes will make Geppetto happier. The Blue Fairy gives you three simple guidelines to live and become a real boy; selflessness, honesty and courage. So it’s no surprise that these areas are challenged when Pinocchio interacts with the outside world.
Following the line of the opening act of this interpretation of pinocchio, whenever the real world interacts with CGI characters, the results are bafflingly insane. But when a CGI anthropomorphic red fox named Honest John (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) fools a talking wooden boy that it’s better to join the circus and become famous than to be real, against a backdrop of the world’s Italy. For real, it’s pretty much impossible not to feel like you’re tripping on acid, which isn’t necessarily a compliment here. What was once magical and enchanting is now weird off the beaten track, which is a recurring theme with these remakes even as they continue to be put into production (although I’ll admit Honest John is buoyed with personality, which is more than I realize). can say of most of these character interpretations).
From there, Pinocchio ends up as a hostage in a traveling show run by the eccentric, bearded Stromboli (Giuseppe Battiston) and also meets a friend in aspiring ballerina Fabiana (Kyanne Lamaya), who puts on a puppet show (with her doll voiced by Jaquita Ta’le). Since Pinocchio no longer trusts humans, Fabiana uses that ability to her advantage and assures Pinocchio that she will escape from her. For the most part, it’s a half-baked excuse for Pinocchio to interact with a female counterpart who disappointingly adds nothing to the story.
The third detour involves peer pressure and a trip to Pleasure Island, a free paradise with no parental guardians. It is also somewhat appropriate that, at this point, pinocchio has agreed to operate like a roller coaster because that’s all this movie is. There are minor attempts to amplify the issues at stake (like Honest John’s misleading claim that the celebrities are the honest ones), but for the most part Robert Zemeckis is doing his best to turn this into a spectacle, and there’s no denying that Is successful. given the extremely detailed animation and the very elaborate set pieces. By doing so and by leaning so heavily on dazzle, he has stripped the narrative of its soul.
this version of pinocchio he is still a wooden child who wants to be real, but with an artificial execution. It’s a hollow, mostly nonsensical remake that’s only moderately appealing to Tom Hanks who delivers a wacky performance and musical numbers from him. There may be no strings attached to Pinocchio, but there sure are strings attached to Robert Zemeckis, who continues to pump out factory-assembled disposable junk at the end of his career.
Flashing Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the reviews editor for Flickering Myth. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]