In this age of remakes and reboots, Disney has reached way back in its vault and presented us with a live-action/CGI remake of its beloved 1940 classic PINOCCHIO. The tale of a wooden boy who embarks on a journey to become real, this story has always been filled with dark elements – bullying, kidnapping, a killer whale named Monstro – but at its heart filled with motivating
messaging that encourages viewers to be brave, honest and unselfish.
True story, in undergrad I once babysat a toddler for my World Religions teacher Dr. Theresa Smith. Before leaving her home, Dr. Smith advised that after dinner I could put on a VHS tape (yep, showing my age) for her son’s pre-bedtime entertainment. What she didn’t tell me was certain cartoons were off limits, Pinocchio being one of them, because some content could be unnerving and she wanted to screen them first.
Not fully remembering the story, what did young Thomasena do? Yep, I showed the little one
Pinocchio and, although he enjoyed and laughed at appropriate times, he sure enough informed his mother about the scary character Monstro – and had a bit of trouble sleeping that night because of it.
In this new film, co-written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, those dark elements remain – more punctuated by the CGI advances – and the messaging is still spot on but it’s the heartstring pulls that weren’t as solid and honestly, I didn’t have any of the wow moments I expected.
As a matter of fact, my biggest emotional moment was at the beginning with the introduction of Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – a favorite Disney character and my childhood imaginary friend – who appears during the opening theme credits while singing the last of “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
Gordon-Levitt is solid as Jiminy and young actor Benjamin Evan Ainsworth voices Pinocchio with all the innocence, curiosity and wonder that the role requires.
But I must admit, I wasn’t taken at all with veteran actor and Academy award-winner Tom Hanks as the titular character’s creator Geppetto, and it really felt like he displayed a paint by numbers performance which was really uncomfortable to watch.
Could the former be attributed to the lack of emotional pull in the story? I’d bet on that and would also apply that logic to what felt like a waste of the uber-talented Emmy, Grammy and Tony award-winner Cynthia Erivo as the Blue Fairy – whose entrance and major scene was lackluster even though it had all the essential elements – magic, beauty and her wonderful vocal pipes to boot.
The biggest draw to me were the computer animations and graphics – which turned Geppetto’s home, village and the amusingly deceptive “Pleasure Island” into places of serenity and wonder respectively.
But it’s worth repeating the graphics will heighten the scare factor for little ones, much like the original movie did for my college professor’s son. I mean the shadow people on Pleasure Island, for example, are very reminiscent of those demons in Hellbound! If by any chance Dr. Smith is reading, please note this film is definitely not one to show to the younger grandchildren!
Overall, the latest Pinocchio is filled with great messaging and is beautiful visually but lacks the emotional depth of the original story – unlike many recent Disney properties which will definitely affect its relatability in 2022. I rate it 2.5 out of 5 on the MMTrometer.
PINNOCHIO premiered September 8 on Disney+. The streaming service is offering a month of service for $1.99 (regulary 7.99) through September 19.
Until next thought, Thomasena