1 Star Movies

Pinocchio (2022)

(An) explicitly hollow remake.

There is no way I can discuss the live action remake of Pinocchio without talking in depth about the 1940 animated masterpiece

Maybe I just can’t see past the end of my nose, but it is what it is.

I am not shy in stating that I feel the animated version is easily one of the best animated films ever made (in my mind, it is second only to Fantasia, also released in 1940). It was one of the few animated films from Disney that worked despite not being a true musical (minus it’s theme song being arguably the most important in the history of the company), and taught lessons to kids (especially boys) lessons that are glued to their souls for life, while also being effectively dark in its tone and imagery. 

None of that is found in this explicitly hollow remake.

Like the original (which in case you did not catch by now, is the film you should just rewatch), the film starts off with the ever charming Jiminy Crickett (Joeseph Gordon Levitt, doing a blatant yet effective impersonation of Cliff Edwards) narrating the story (and talking to his past self, the beginning of some odd narrative confusion). He speaks of the night he stumbles into the home of the big hearted wood carver/toymaker named Geppetto (Tom Hanks). As was the case in previously made live action remakes, we get a bit more of a back story with Geppetto, learning one of the main reasons he is making the titular puppet is to fill the void of his deceased son (thankfully, we don’t get things such as flashbacks like we had to endure in 2017’s semi-disappointing Beauty and the Beast). After his wish, the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) arrives, and brings the puppet to life (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth).

Before we get to the places Pinocchio travels to (which, for the most part, are in line with the animated film), it should be worth noting some of the clocks in Geppetto’s workshop. One of the many nice touches of animation was the menagerie of clocks in the film. While some of them make it to the live action, someone behind the scenes basically sold out and went with the easter egg approach. I know it is a movie made for kids, but come on: recycling your old movies (some of them that are already live remakes) into ideas for clocks are just lazy.

There are some characters from the original that make a return here, such as Honest John (nicely played by Keegan-Michael Key), Stromboli (Italian actor Giuseppe Battiston), and the rather unfortunate Lampwick (Lewin Lloyd).There are some new characters as well, such as a seagull named Sophia (Lorraine Bracco) and, most notably, a struggling puppeteer named Fabiana (Kyanne Lamaya). She speaks to Pinocchio through her puppet Sabina (voiced by Jaquita Ta’le).

I hate to do it, but this is a spoiler warning, because the changes in this are what brings the movie down to a new low, hopefully a depth that may make Disney think twice before greenlighting any more live action remakes (this review is being written not long after the teaser trailer of The Little Mermaid live action remake).

You have been warned.

In the animated film, the scene where Pinocchio learns what happens when he lies is, without question, the most memorable scene (and one of the most memorable in film history, animated or not). Here, the scene is just between Pinocchio and Jiminy (the Blue Fairy is absent). Instead of learning the true horrors of lying and its aftermath, all this PInocchio learned was that it helped him reach the key to free him from his cage.

Now for Pleasure Island. In the original, the results of what happens when boys go to  Pleasure Island are truly some of the darkest moments in any kid movie in history. Yet these results are also important, as they stay with kids decades after (I can safely say the original was a big reason why I never pursued drinking alcohol or smoking as an adolescent).  In the remake (which has girls going to Pleasure Island now), the smoking is completely removed (to be fair, I guess it would truly be bad to show real live kids smoking). As for the beer, it is replaced with Root Beer. That is right. Root Beer. Those behind the scene did just water this tale down: they drowned it.

Now for the final, ultimate change in the film. After Pinocchio and Geppetto survive their encounter with Monstro the whale, the movie ends…and our titular hero does not even turn into a real boy. He is told that, as long as he feels like a real boy on the inside, that is all right with Geppetto. 

Excuse me while I look for a new word meaning “super shameless.”

Parents, I am not one to tell you how to raise your kids, but if you plan on showing your kids this film before the original (or, heaven forbid, not even showing them the original), then I would indeed question your choices when it comes to what movies you show your children (this one is fine, though I think there is one minor swear at some point).

Am I being too hard on a kid movie? Maybe, but keep in mind that the director is Robert Zemeckis, who has done such classics as The Back to the Future Trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), and (with Hanks) directed 1994’s Forrest Gump (for which both he and Hanks won Oscars), Cast Away (2000), and The Polar Express (2004). He indeed is talented, and knows how to add to a film visually in his own unique magical way. 

Still, even Zemeckis and Hanks cannot save this from being another trivial remake of a classic that did not need to be redone in the first place.

Sorry if I sounded too cruel, but I was just following my conscience.


Rating: 1 out of 5.

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