Unless you’ve been living on another planet for the last few years, you’ll be aware that Disney has been busy remaking many of its animated movies. From The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, to Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book, the Mouse House is working its way through its exhaustive back catalogue of titles, to rework, reimagine, and repackage everything that has come before.
You want to see a live-action take on Aladdin? Well, you can – it was released in 2019.
Interested in seeing Disney’s Cinderella with human actors?Then be sure to seek out 2015’s Cinderella remake, which featured Lily James in the title role.
Over the next few years, more of these remakes are on the horizon, with everything from The Little Mermaid to Lilo and Stich already in the works. And today sees the release of yet another, in the form of Pinocchio.
Making its debut on Disney+ today (to coincide with ‘Disney+ Day’), Pinocchio is a live-action take on the 1940 animated classic of the same name. As with the original version – which in turn is based on the Italian children’s novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi – the movie centres around a wooden puppet, brought to life by a fairy.
In the movie, a lonely woodcarver named Geppetto crafts a marionette, in the form of a young boy. He then makes a wish that the puppet would come to life, only to discover this wish comes true, and he now has a son (of sorts) who he names Pinocchio.
The next day, Geppetto sends Pinocchio off to school, so he can learn to fit in with all the other children in the village. However, the innocent and naïve Pinocchio soon finds himself caught up in a great deal of trouble, when he crosses paths with a succession of rogues who want to take advantage of him.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, Pinocchio stars Tom Hanks, Cynthia Erivo, and Luke Evans, and features the voice work of Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Keegan-Michael Key. The movie is available to stream now, so if you want to see how well this one stacks up, and you currently subscribe to Disney+, you have plenty of opportunity.
But before you dive head first into this movie, I should probably tell you the pros and cons. This is a review of the movie after all, so it would seem a little strange if I didn’t bombard you with my opinion on the film.
Well, my opinion is this: While Pinocchio looks superb, and features one or two pretty decent moments, overall, the film is a misfire. Pinocchio is long, slow, feels rather padded, and seems to have lost both its heart and soul in its transformation from animation to live-action.
Before I go any further, I will say I believe the original animated Pinocchio is one of the best Disney movies from the classic era. It sometimes gets overlooked, due to it being the second animated feature to be released by Disney (following on from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), but give it a rewatch and you’ll see how good it is.
The original Pinocchio features some superb animation, many memorable (and terrifying) characters, and four truly iconic songs. ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’, ‘Give a Little Whistle’, ‘Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee’, and ‘I’ve Got No Strings’ all feature in the 1940’s version of Pinocchio, and are all remembered to this day.
To put things simply: Pinocchio is top tier stuff. So, if you’re going to remake the movie, you really need to add value to the product, otherwise why bother?
The problem is, adding value doesn’t mean stretching out the running time, nor does it mean simply turning a children’s cartoon into a family-friendly live-action picture. Sure, adults are more likely to sit through a live-action film with their kids than an animated one, but that’s not an excuse for a remake.
Adding value means going back to the drawing board, coming up with something fresh and new, and finding a reason to retell the same story. It is about presenting a different angle, uncovering a previously overlooked idea, and giving the audience a reason to return.
Unfortunately, this latest take on Pinocchio doesn’t understand any of this and what we are given is something which not only fails to entertain, it is also far less interesting and imaginative than what came before. With the exception of maybe a line or two here and there, Pinocchio 2.0 brings nothing new to the table, and is far less appealing than the version Disney released 82 years ago!
This film is essentially the same old story, only retold with a fresh coat of paint and a few superfluous flourishes thrown into the mix. These flourishes (a song here, a character there), serve no purpose whatsoever, and Disney would have been better to just remove them entirely.
Of course, without the added bits, then Pinocchio would have ended up as a shot-for-shot remake of the original, and this wouldn’t have been great either. However, at the very least, the movie would have moved faster, and wouldn’t have dithered around so much.
Pinocchio’s biggest problem is that it is very, very slow, and takes far too long to get going. The first hour in particular is a real slog, and is incredibly boring.
Things pick up during the second half of the movie, when Pinocchio is taken to the mysterious and rather creepy, Pleasure Island (more about that in a moment), but by this point I expect most people’s concentration will be long gone. Getting kids to sit through the first half of the movie without fidgeting will be a task in itself, and a gold star will go to any parent who can manage it successfully.
Sure, there are various CGI animals to keep them distracted (Figaro the cat, Cleo the goldfish, Sofia the seagull, etc), but I’d be surprised if they stick with this movie for the long haul. Pinocchio starts off slow and continues down this path for longer than it should, and this is frustrating.
When Pinocchio does hit its stride, it is when the story segues into the Pleasure Island sequence – a section in the film, which sees Pinocchio tricked into attending a sinister funfair. This whole scene is a little disturbing, is arguably darker than the original version, and is easily the stand-out part of the movie.
Any kids watching Pinocchio (who haven’t walked away to colour in the kitchen wall) will certainly pay attention to this sequence in the film; mostly because it will scare the living heck out of them. But if they are scared then at least they are engaged – so that’s something, right?!
OK, maybe not. But the Pleasure Island stuff is great and is a visual and atmospheric delight.
As for the rest of the movie, I will give it praise for its aesthetic, because Pinocchio certainly looks the business, and this is at least something worth mentioning. Oh, and then there’s Tom Hanks, who is as great as you might expect, because… well… he’s Tom Hanks.
But that really is it. This film is disjointed, the pacing is all over the place, and it all just feels like a waste of time.
Pinocchio not only fails to surpass the original, it can’t even match it. Sure, it’s not dreadful, but it’s not good either.
I’m not against remakes at all, but if I’m going to spend two hours watching something I’ve seen before, then I need this new version to be worth the time. For me, Pinocchio isn’t worth the time.
I’ve watched the original animated movie half-a-dozen times in my lifetime, and I’m in no doubt I’ll watch it half-a-dozen more. I don’t believe the same can be said for this remake, and I don’t believe I’ll ever come back to it.
Pinocchio is boring and pointless. Just watch the original – it has stood the test of time for a reason.