"Pinocchio" (2022) Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
You never know what to expect when Disney does a live-action remake of their classic films. Some are very good, but many fail to hit the mark, and in turn, are considered unsuccessful compared to their animated counterpart. I honestly had very high hopes for "Pinocchio". After seeing some of the released images from the film and knowing Tom Hanks was cast as the lovable Geppetto, I was wondering what could go wrong. Well, it turns out quite a bit could go wrong actually, as director Robert Zemeckis delivers a film that is just all over the place and is simply not an enjoyable film, unlike the animated film it is based off of.
The remake sort of follows the same beat and story as the 1940 film, just 20 minutes longer. Due to that, I think they try to stretch out the storylines and add in new material to give it a much longer runtime, even though that was very unnecessary. The original animated film was already an hour and a half, and that could have easily been the case for this movie as well. There was no reason, and really no more material, to go off of to try and craft a longer film for the live-action remake.
The story follows Geppetto, who is a lonely old woodcarver that lives with his cat Figaro and his fish Cleo. From inferences as they never say it straight out in the movie, Geppetto had a wife and young son, who either left him or died tragically. Because of that, Geppetto doesn't allow himself to go out much, and thinks he would be much happier secluded off from the world. However, he does start to grow lonely, and decides to craft a wooden boy in his late son's likeness, naming the new puppet Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth).
One night, when he discovers the wishing star flying across the sky, he makes a wish that Pinocchio will become a real boy. That wish is then granted by the magical Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo), who instruct Pinocchio that he must learn how to be honest and have a conscience if he wants to be a real boy. She hires Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to help serve as his guide. Pinocchio is then sent on an adventure to try and become a real boy, but makes numerous mistakes along the way that won't only might cost him his life, but could put his papa in harms way as well.
The best thing about this movie is Hanks' and Ainsworth's performances. I think they are able to fully embody their roles, and it really is a joy to watch them on the screen together. One of the best parts of this film is when we watch a montage of them trying to adjust to living together in the small shack, and Pinocchio does things like accidentally kick something out of a window or setting his finger on fire thinking it was safe. Aspects of the plot make this film a lot of fun, and it is really enjoyable to watch. In terms of characters like Jiminy Cricket though, they really fail to capture the magic and likeliness of these classic characters.
However, as soon as Pinocchio treks off to school, that is when our story really starts to go downhill. The old classic from Disney really is depressing at times, but still contains some of that magic charm to carry itself along and make the movie enjoyable for all ages. I can't say the same for this live-action remake. It is dark and depressing, and after a while, isn't fun or enjoyable to watch anymore. It really dampens the viewer's mood, and doesn't feel like a Disney movie whatsoever when you start to get into the middle act.
I do applaud them for including an African American woman as the Blue Fairy and including a character with a physical disability, but it seems like they're trying to use that to make up for the lackluster script and poor directing. It truly seems like it's all over the place, and there really is no direction the film goes in until Pinocchio and Geppetto get swallowed by Monstro towards the end of the movie. It almost seems like they were trying to take all the subject material and plot beats from the animated film, and recreate them in their own dark and twisted way, and it simply does not work whatsoever.
Unfortunately, this is perhaps Disney's worst live-action remake, and I would even say remakes like "The Lion King" was able to do more things right than this film. This could have easily been a great remake due to some of the performances in this movie, but the script and direction does not allow them to really shine. It really is unfortunate due to how great the animated film is, but let's just hope that if Disney does want to remake more classics like this, they'll learn from their mistakes.