For some reason (we all know it’s the money), Disney is determined to mine their vault for material to remake, update, or “reimagine.” The studio’s latest abomination is the live action and animated musical “Pinocchio,” a massive misfire that tarnishes the beloved 1940s classic. Director and co-writer Robert Zemeckis‘ film is unimaginative, unwelcome, and uninspired.
Geppetto (Tom Hanks) is a lonely Italian woodcarver who builds a marionette named Pinocchio (voice of Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and treats him like his real son. With the help of a little magic from the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo), the puppet comes to life and dreams of becoming a real boy. The film follows Pinocchio’s adventures and missteps on his quest to make this fantasy a reality, including being duped by Honest John (voice of Keegan-Michael Key), being kidnapped by a circus, getting turned into a donkey, and being swallowed by a whale. He does all of this with his conscience, Jiminy Cricket (voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt), by his side.
The story stays mostly true to the original 1883 book and Disney animated film. It’s updated a bit with new characters and some very off-putting (and unfunny) one-liners about Hollywood and the movie industry, and the screenplay feels old fashioned as it attempts to modernize the messaging. Pinocchio exclaims, “I don’t need school!” when he decides that he wants to be famous instead of getting an education. That may be relevant to today’s social climate, yet it still feels like a reach.
Things get worse from there. The animation is ugly and disturbing, with plastic looking characters and equally ghastly voice performances. Gordon-Levitt is terrible as Jiminy Cricket, giving a whiny, strained turn as one of the story’s most cherished characters. Everyone seems to be trying too hard, although it’s puzzling as to the reason why. At least Hanks makes an excellent Geppetto.
The film includes a few original tunes that are forgettable, as well as new versions of classic songs “When You Wish Upon A Star,” “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee,” and “I’ve Got No Strings,” which do not sound much better than nails dragging across a chalkboard. The singing is atrocious, and that’s putting it politely.
The Pleasure Island scenes are fully realized and a visual delight (let’s try to ignore that the “bad” boys do such horrific things like drinking root beer), but that’s where the praise begins and ends. The best part of the film is also its most ominous, and parents should note that the film is rated PG for a reasons. It features scary scenarios that may spook young kids, especially if they have abandonment issues or are afraid of the dark.
Almost everything about “Pinocchio” is cringe-worthy, and it’s simply not a good film. Why do this to a Disney classic?