A modern twist to an old story

Disney remake Pinocchio fails to grasp the charm and magic of the original

published : 16 Sep 2022 at 04:00

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Disney +

Pinocchio is the latest to join Disney’s assembly line of turning classic cartoons into computer-generated live-action remakes. In this film, Forrest Gump (1994), Cast Away (2000) and The Polar Express (2004) director Robert Zemeckis is reunited with Tom Hanks, who retells the tale of a wooden puppet who embarks on a thrilling adventure to become a real boy. Despite the high-budget production, and the director’s attempt to bring an old-fashioned story with a modern voice, Pinocchio feels somewhat lifeless and in the middle of the mediocre pack.

For the most part, Pinocchio follows the same storyline and structure as the 1940s original. So, if your kids have already watched the original, then they will surely find this very familiar. The film features the story of Pinocchio, a wooden puppet carved by his maker Geppetto (Hanks). He’s later brought to life by the magic of the Blue Fairy who promises to make him a real boy if he in turn promises to prove himself to be a worthy one. While trying to live life by these principles, Pinocchio’s naivety and various temptations keep him straying from his path.

The only changes here come from the decision to have some actors give live-action performances such as Hanks as lonely woodcarver Geppetto or Luke Evans as the Coachman of Pleasure Island, but the rest is computer animation. This is one of the main problems of the movie. While the animation worked in some areas, like the beautifully lit streets and buildings of an Italian town or the delicate blue glow wings of the Blue Fairy’s ethereal interpretations, the rest of the film relies on a cast of entirely computer-generated characters that often give feelings of disbelief. The CGI designs of the mischievous fox, Honest John, and his sidekick cat Gideon are quite bad and far from realistic in a distracting way. However, the worst character has to be Jiminy Cricket who’s too plastic looking here, which comes off as less endearing than his character in the original film.

Hanks as Geppetto is solid, especially the way he conveys his gentle demeanour and mannerisms towards others. This makes him the perfect father figure and provides some touching moments, especially in the opening sequence. However, the relationship between him and Pinocchio is sort of half-baked and less effective. I did like that they have a few scenes of building their bond in the beginning, but once the opening act is out of the way, it feels like Geppetto disappears for much of the story and doesn’t have much of anything to do until towards the end. It just doesn’t feel as prominent as the original.

Pinocchio, voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, and Geppetto, played by Tom Hanks, in Pinocchio. Photos: Disney+

For those looking for something new in this version of Pinocchio, it’s pretty minimal. There are some new additional characters in this version such as Fabiana (Kyanne Lamaya) along with her puppet named Sabina. Their characters are quite interesting at first, but end up feeling like an unnecessary secondary version of Jiminy Cricket that never contribute that much to the story.

Even though original Disney animations were made to appeal to young kids, they also bring in other generations of audiences who appreciate the effort put into the film. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Pinocchio. It’s like watching a filmmaker turn the original movie into a computer-animated version of essentially the same thing, but with much less charm and magic. It begs the question, if there’s nothing substantive worth changing from the previous take, why bother making this at all?

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