Pinocchio Review: A Flat, Wooden Remake –

82 years after the release of Disney’s animated version of the story of a wooden doll that comes to life, a live-action remake lands on their streaming service, Disney+. Pinocchio is the latest musical fantasy film directed by Robert Zemeckis. This is Disney’s latest retelling of a classic story about a puppet named Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) who is brought to life by The Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) and goes on an incredible adventure. Unfortunately, while this story took the world by storm in 1940 and became the first animated film to win a competitive Oscar, this remake isn’t destined to reach anywhere near that level.

Pinocchio is the latest installment in Disney’s series of lazy, never-ending live-action remakes of classic animated films. We’ve seen a lot of them lately, with Lions King and Mulan like the two most recent entries. Since Pinocchio came out decades ago, it makes more sense to revitalize a product that hasn’t aged so well. Remember that the original movie is a G-rated movie that includes smoking, drinking and slave labor. This remake won’t be as dark. While a step in the right direction, this film is hardly a story worth watching as it changes details from the original film – sometimes not for the better.

Zemeckis has always been a strong visual director. He innovated special effects in Back to the Future trilogy and has continued to push the envelope in films such as The Polar Express and Welcome to Marwen. He’s the perfect director for a live-action remake of a Disney movie, and he does an excellent job here. Pinocchio, the wooden puppet, is wonderfully brought to life against these real backgrounds. The CGI is flawless as we have all these characters, like Jiminy Cricket and Honest John, brought to life in a realistic environment.

But as with all films of this type, there are ups and downs. Although the characters look realistic and Pinocchio has a wonderful design, it can sometimes feel as if Honest John’s design is too realistic to capture Keegan Michael-Key’s phenomenal comic energy. Lorraine Bracco’s voice role as a seagull named Sofia is another example of a character whose voice doesn’t mesh well with a live-action design. It works better with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s work as Jiminy Cricket as he has an excellent design. Gordon-Levitt is an unexpectedly strong casting choice as he sounds very different from his usual self and works well for the role.

The story isn’t what it should be either. The film generally sticks to the source material, but wastes the opportunity to build on it. We get a more sanitized version of the 1940 story, but Pinocchio can’t help but feel directionless in his storytelling. Some of this film feels like it’s making itself up as it goes along, making its structure a little too obvious. The film is divided into Pinocchio facing obstacles, overcoming them, and then facing another obstacle – over and over. It just feels like a movie where things happen before you get a chance to care about what’s going on.

Pinocchio lacks the sharp writing, setups and payoff that a story like this should have. It feels like the film sacrificed the potential for a coherent story for sequences that simply feel like theme parks. It never explores the character relationships or arcs deeply when it could have been much richer in that department. As a result, the emotional third act feels hollow and ineffective because the film never fully realized its potential to tell a story that can resonate with audiences everywhere. Instead, it just feels like the movie is adapting the original movie.

Overall, Pinocchio ends up being a frustrating experience. It never feels like the characters had arcs, even if that’s what the movie wants you to believe. The strongest elements are the two main performances from Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as Pinocchio and Tom Hanks as Geppetto. Unfortunately, the pace slows down every time the film cuts back to Geppetto’s subplot, where he is searching for Pinocchio. It’s never investing because not enough work was done to flesh out Geppetto’s emotions. The result is a technically excellent film, complete with Zemeckis’ eye for whimsical visuals, without a story to match.

SCORE: 5/10

Like ComingSoon’s audit policy explains, a score of 5 corresponds to “mediocre”. The positive and the negative end up negating each other, making it a wash.

Disclosure: The reviewer received a screener link to ComingSoon’s Pinocchio review.

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