Walt Disney Pictures adapts Carlo Collodi's 1883 children's novel The Adventures of Pinocchio into Pinocchio. As well as directing, Robert Zemeckis wrote the screenplay with Chris Weitz. Tom Hanks plays Geppetto (Tom Hanks), an Italian woodcarver and toymaker who builds a lifelike wooden boy called Pinocchio. One night Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) is magically brought to life by the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo).
Pinocchio is raised as if he were a real child by Geppetto. If Pinocchio proves brave, truthful, and unselfish, the Blue Fairy promises to turn him into a real boy. He is accompanied on his journey by Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an anthropomorphic cricket who acts as Pinocchio's conscience.
School is a must for Pinocchio. Honest John (Keegan-Michael Key) and Gideon the Cat lead Pinocchio astray on the way to the first day. Honest John convinces Pinocchio to join Stromboli's (Giuseppe Battiston)'s puppet show despite Jiminy's objections. The Coachman (Luke Evans), the sly owner and operator of Pleasure Island, soon targets the duo. Geppetto, meanwhile, has set out on a journey to search for his son after Pinocchio fails to return from school.
Disney's Pinocchio has been a popular character since he made his big screen debut in 1940. Disney parks have rides named after him; an Ice show with his namesake toured for five years, and he even has video games. He also appeared in Who Framed Roger Rabbit in 1988.
Pinocchio's newest version comes across as a cash grab for the stellar talent involved. First, the good. Geppetto's creations are displayed early in the film, including Easter eggs to beloved Disney characters. Additionally, Moving Picture Company provides animation and visual effects. As I watched the movie in 4K at home, it looked fantastic. Cynthia Erivo was lovely as the Blue Fairy. One of my greatest joys is hearing her sing.
Similarly, I enjoy Luke Evans playing a bad guy. The Coachman's interaction with Pinocchio for the first time on screen was a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, the buck stops there. Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis are more or less phoning it in their fourth film following Forrest Gump, Castaway, and The Polar Express.
At the film's beginning, Tom Hanks attempts a song using spoken word that is not only a failure but also odd. No idea why they didn't keep "Little Wooden Head." Hank's natural everyman appeal comes across as forced. Also, Keegan-Michael Key's and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's voice work screams we're here just for the money. Robert Zemeckis's directorial of the eighties & nineties directorial magic is a distant memory after seeing this film. Finally, don't get me started on that ambiguous ending they give us.
In light of everything going on in the world, I would've preferred to revisit the canceled sequel plans from the mid-2000s in 2022. Pinocchio II abandoned sequel plot would find the character on a "strange journey" for the sake of something dear to him. Pinocchio was made to question life's unfairness by this story conceptually.
According to Roger Ebert, regarding the original Pinocchio, the film isn't just a silly fairy tale or a concocted fable. Instead, it is a narrative with deep archetypal reverberations. None of that was present in the newest version. I'm sure some families will find something to enjoy in the latest version of Pinocchio, but it was dead wood for me.
Final Grade: D+
Pinocchio is available to stream on Disney + today.