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September 8, 2022 / Disney+

Starring:Tom Hanks, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Directed By: Robert Zemeckis

A puppet is brought to life by a fairy, who assigns him to lead a virtuous life in order to become a real boy.

Written By Darren

Rating 1 out of 5

Pinocchio is not the magical retelling of the Disney classic that the trailers promised, but instead a lifeless and frustrating live action remake that fails to capture the magic that made the original a film that parents continue to show to their children more than eighty years later.

I am a massive Disney fan, and for the most part I have adored their live action remakes, even the shot for shot remake of The Lion King. There is something about Disney films that completely engages me and brings back that feeling of childhood, always delivering a wonderful experience. So needless to say, the live action remake of Pinocchio was one of my most anticipated films of the month with such an outstanding cast. It seemed like nothing could derail this film from being a hit in my eyes. Unfortunately, it pains me to report that the film in fact went very wrong, delivering the worst live action remakes to date of any of their animated classics that I enjoyed even less than the Maleficent films starring Angelina Jolie.

Audiences today know the story of Pinocchio very well, it has been told many times in different forms, but the hallmarks of the story remain the same across every version. While I appreciate that Disney tried to add something new to the story, they unfortunately messed with the DNA of the story and created a film that is completely frustrating for diehard Disney fans. Simple scenes such as Pinocchio being brought to life are messed up, favouring CGI spectacle over the simplicity of the original animated film and the emotional beats of the story. New plot elements and characters are added for a scene or two, which serve no purpose and have no impact on the story, other than allowing the filmmakers to say they added something new to this version of Pinocchio. Monstro has gone from being a giant whale to being a mythical sea creature that I could not pin down the species of. Yes, it may seem like being a little too picky about Monstro, but he is referred to as both a whale and a mythical beast in the film, so clearly the creative team couldn’t decide either. And that ending. Don’t even get me started, but somehow they managed to completely change the ending and destroy that beautiful moment of the animated film that has lived rent free in my head ever since watching the film as a young child.

The script is atrocious, forcing Jiminy Cricket to break the fourth wall like he is Deadpool, despite it absolutely not working in this film. The dialogue is stiff and wooden, feeling unnatural at best, ensuring that the talented cast is wasted. On paper, every role is perfectly cast, but their performances say otherwise. Tom Hanks is at his worst as Gepetto, delivering a truly baffling performance that comes off as a bad SNL performance, making me question if this is the same Hanks who has two Oscar wins and six nominations to his name. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has the perfect voice for Jiminy Cricket, but he is largely pushed to the sidelines, and when he is given something to do, it’s dialogue used to state the obvious and deliver self aware humour that is out of place in this children’s fairytale film. Cynthia Erivo is barely given her due as the Blue Fairy, being reduced to appearing in a single scene full of bumbling dialogue that fails to capture the grace or power of her character. Luke Evans is absolutely wasted in his small role, and it actually took me a few minutes to realize it was him, raising the question of why they even bothered to cast him in the role if he made that little of an impact on the film. The only two good performances were from Keegan-Michael Key as Honest John, who was the perfect blend of humorous and sinister as the fox that leads Pinocchio astray, and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as Pinocchio, who captured the inquisitive and sweet soul of this puppet that audiences have adored for generations.

Considering the film revolves around a puppet that comes to life, I had no doubt that there would be a considerable amount of CGI used to bring this story to life. And while the CGI used to create Pinocchio is good and does a great job at capturing the design of the original cartoon character, the rest of the film is a visual mess. It’s an onslaught of CGI to create every scene that makes nothing in this film feel remotely real, but instead simulates a video game that is difficult to look at.

Finally, music has always been one of my favorite elements of a Disney film. Naturally, we get new songs written for the film, but none of them are remotely memorable, failing to say anything interesting or create a melody that will stick with you. Especially that song that Hanks sang, which honestly is probably the worst musical performance by an actor in a while that makes Pierce Brosnan look great in the Mamma Mia films. It's bad that this song came at the expense of “Give a Little Whistle” which was cut from the film, nor were “I Got No Strings” or “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor’s Life For Me)” given their proper due. Thankfully, we are graced with a truly beautiful rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star” from Erivo. It is the highlight of the film as Erivo sounds magnificent, tackling one of the greatest songs in the Disney songbook, displaying her vocal range as a singer while exciting audiences for what they can expect for her in the upcoming two part adaptation of Wicked!

It really hurts writing this review, because I genuinely loved both trailers from Pinocchio, but there is very little to actually enjoy about this film. Despite Cynthia Erivo’s stunning rendition of “When You Wish Upon A Star”, the rest of the live action remake of Pinocchio is an absolute trainwreck, not only failing to capture the magic of the original which has delighted audiences for over eighty years, but destroying the magic and wonder of the story that audiences have fallen in love with for decades.

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