Pinocchio Is a Lot More Enjoyable Than It Should Be


Over the last few years, Hollywood seems to have stumbled upon a strange obsession with that classic story about an aging carpenter and his puppet son. Pinocchio seems to have sparked an adaptation frenzy. In 2019, Italian director Matteo Garrone started the ball rolling with his take on the tale starring Roberto Begnini as Geppetto. Pinocchio: A True Story followed suit in 2021, starring Pauly Shore (yes, that Pauly Shore) in the titular role. That one was, to say the least, bizarre. Then we had some good news when it was announced that Guillermo del Toro would take on the classic – which, to me, felt like the perfect pairing. Now, with all these adaptations and reimaginings, it would have been shocking if our good friends at Disney didn’t jump at the chance to do a live action remake.

And so it came to be. Yet another version of Pinocchio with Tom Hanks as Geppetto and Robert Zemeckis behind the camera. It seemed like a recipe for success. What could go wrong? Seemingly nothing. At least until we saw that first trailer.

What Could Go Wrong?

I was skeptical when Disney first announced their plans for a new Pinocchio movie. They haven’t exactly had the best track record when it comes to their live action remakes. There have been some standouts like Cruella, Christopher Robin, and The Jungle Book. But the less said about Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Mulan, the better. Their reboots work best when they take a character from one of their films and crafts an original story around them. They’re less successful when Disney just makes a live action carbon copy of the original.

I had two problems with that Pinocchio trailer. The first was that they seemed to be doing a shot for shot remake. The second was that Pinocchio felt too clean, too shiny, and too colourful. It felt jarring to the environment he was in. All of that just made me think, “Why should I watch this?” If they are just going to recreate everything all over again, I might as well watch the original.

It’s safe the say that this movie was not high up on my watchlist. But, being the sucker that I am for anything Disney, I decided to give it a chance. I went in with a sense of deep-seated fear and anxiety, but with every passing minute, I found my heart soften and genuinely began the enjoy the experience.

Pinocchio is Good..Maybe?

Yes, this is essentially an updated version of their animated 1940 classic. The design and look of all your favourite characters are essentially the same as they were back then – just with more CGI. Pinocchio himself, feels like someone stole a forgotten Disneyland prop from a storage warehouse and stuck it in this. Set pieces, and even chunks of dialogue, have just been lifted from the old film (down to the incredibly traumatic Donkey transformation scene). Everything feels very much like a cut and paste production. Despite that, however, Disney has somehow figured out a way to keep their past intact, while injecting just enough magic to not completely wave off this adaptation.

Similar to what they did with The Jungle Book, Disney (as well as legendary director Robert Zemeckis) have managed to balance that fine line between the past and present to give us a film that doesn’t just allow us relive some childhood nostalgia, but also update it in such a way in order to create a brand new experience. One with some nuance. A few mature jokes. As well as a cheeky nod to some older Disney classics as well.

Pinocchio genuinely ended up being a lot more enjoyable than I had anticipated. The childlike nature of the film as a whole reminded me of why I loved the cartoon so much. From the moment the infamous castle credit rolled up, and Jiminy Cricket floated down onto the screen singing, a wave of memories just hit me like a freight train. Somehow, it felt like something was different this time round, and in a good way.

Pinocchio IS Good!

The performances in this film are a joy to watch. Tom Hanks naturally excels as Geppetto, effortlessly showcasing how deep a bond a father and son can have – which is something I didn’t get from the original. I don’t know if it was because I was just a kid when I first watched it, or if Disney have strengthened that message of love between father and child. Either way, Hanks’ performance will play with your heart strings in such a way that you will most likely end up calling your own parents just to tell them you love them.

Keegan Michael Key, Luke Evans, and Cynthia Erivo are all excellent, but a special mention has to go to Joseph Gordon-Levitt who is unrecognizable as the voice of Jiminy Cricket. Harking back to the original performance by Cliff Edwards, you lose any sense of JGL in the role. By the end of the movie, I wanted my very own cricket cheerleader, perched on my shoulder, with that comforting voice and all of that positive energy.

While I did enjoy Pinocchio on the whole, there were some pitfalls along the way. The introduction of two brand new characters, Fabiana and her puppet, Sabina, felt incredibly out of place and forced. This was a character never before seen in any other adaptation, or even the book for that matter. Apart from being there to briefly befriend Pinocchio and (SPOILERS) invite him to join their own circus/puppet tour, they honestly serve very little purpose outside of that. Was this an attempt to introduce a fresh element to the story? Did they think the movie lacked female characters? Are they planning a spinoff? Only Disney knows.

That said, I still believe that Pinocchio should be on your watchlist. Is it the greatest adaptation ever? No. But that doesn’t mean it’s a terrible film. Sure, it has its problems, but there is enough there to keep you entertained, evoke some nostalgia, and perhaps introduce a brand new generation to this iconic tale. At the end of the day, this is Disney doing what they do best. Transporting you away from all the harsh natures of the world, letting you escape your worries, and disappear into a time and place where, if you truly wish upon a star, all your dreams will come true.

Pinocchio is now streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.

Nick Dorian spent most of his childhood dreaming of being a plumber, mainly because he loved watching Super Mario go on adventures. When he heartbreakingly discovered actual plumbers don't go on great adventures in real life, he went on to sit in front of a TV or movie screen, watching more people go on adventures, and then talk to anybody around him about what he's seen, whether they liked it or not. Fast forward to today, he somehow managed to make watching movies and TV shows, and discussing them, an actual living. Which goes to show, dreams do come true. Except when you dream of being an Italian plumber who fights mushrooms and toads.

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