Pinocchio Synopsis: When the woodworker Geppetto (Tom Hanks) sees a falling star, he wishes that the puppet he just finished, Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), could become a real boy. At night, the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) grants Geppetto’s wish and asks Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to serve as the wooden boy’s conscience.
An age-old tale receives a live-action facelift in Pinocchio. It’s no secret Disney continues to mine its prestigious catalog for attractive paydays at the box office. The House of Mouse may boast a few triumphs from the trend (The Lion King, Jungle Book, and Aladdin each cleared $1 billion worldwide), but the studio’s creatively vacant reduxes exist in the shadow of their storied predecessors.
Quietly hitting streaming shelves, Pinocchio may be the most disposable Disney remake yet. The journey of one affable puppet’s search for an identity has never felt so charmless and devoid of humanity onscreen.
Everything about the final product feels off from jump street. After visualizing classics like Back to the Future and Cast Away in his heyday, director Robert Zemeckis continues misguidingly centering his interest in special effects-driven ventures (Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, and Mom’s Needs Moms have each aged poorly). While his techniques evolved from the hidden valley nightmares of his previous work, Zemeckis remains too concentrated on aesthetics to realize the bigger picture.
Pinocchio comes off like a soulless tech demo due to the directorial choices. The film feels more like enduring an oppressive blast of deja vu rather than re-exploring a familiar tale in a new vibrant light. Outside of the glossy visual touches, Pinocchio adheres strictly to the 1940 Disney original’s narrative playbook without attempting any intriguing delineations.
I guess sticking rigidly to a classic can work on some occasions, but Zemeckis’ effort is vacant of the source material’s distinct appeals. Pinocchio and his story remain a staple for balancing hope and cynicism amidst a coming-of-age journey. In comparison, this modern retread timidly repurposes those narrative tenants without the perspective that made them impactful. Even the colorful music numbers and heartfelt moments of reflection are dead on arrival in this remake.
Not everything about Pinocchio fails. The veteran cast, including the charming allures of Tom Hanks, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Cynthia Ervio, extract some life from their time-honored roles. I do think the film maintains a general sense of competence thanks to its talented cast and expensive production budget. However, these elements do not compensate for a sinking ship of a narrative.
Audiences looking for a new take on Pinocchio are better off waiting for Guillermo Del Toro’s macabre reimaging set for Netflix later this year rather than sitting through yet another by-the-book Disney remake. I hope Disney eventually learns to take more risks with their big-budget reboots.
Pinocchio is now playing on Disney+.