The original 1940 Pinocchio is my personal favorite Disney animated film ever; Sure, it has its flaws and is nonsensical in a lot of ways, but the terrifying donkey transformations are borderline horror genre material, Jiminy Cricket is hilariously and shockingly horny throughout, and Honest John Worthington Foulfellow is steals the show as not only the film’s best character, but the recipient of its best song as well.
However, the new live-action remake directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by himself, Chris Weitz (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), and Simon Farnaby (Paddington 2), is of the same vein as Disney’s other live-action remakes, such as Dumbo, Aladdinand The Lion King.
That is to say, it keeps just enough of the original animated film to make its existence feel pointless while simultaneously introducing just enough new material to piss you off.
The original film already felt rushed as far as the storytelling goes, but the Zemeckis version is all over the place, featuring a constantly revolving door of new and familiar characters who bizarrely have a most only one or two scenes before never being seen again.
Tom Hanks’ Geppetto is very difficult to understand through his terrible Italian accent – be prepared to put on subtitles – and his entire backstory has been rewritten.
While Gepetto originally created his wooden marionette son to make-up for the fact that he was a lonely old man who had never married or had human children of his own, in the new film, Gepetto not only mentions that he once had a wife, but that Pinocchio is based on his son who passed away at an early age.
Cynthia Erivo is the Blue Fairy in the film and is fine in the role, but it’s odd that you don’t ever see her again after she fulfills Geppetto’s wish.
In contrast to how her animated incarnation watched over Pinocchio and helped him escape Stromboli’s clutches, serving as the young boy’s ‘guardian angel’ of sorts, the new Blue Fairy basically just exists to bring the puppet to life, sing him a new and extended version of “When You Wish Upon A Star”, and then bail.
Speaking of, even Stromboli got the shaft, as the gypsy aspect of his character has been totally erased.
Originally mean, loud, and short-tempered with a memorable accent, Zemeckis has not turned Stromboli into a forgettable blob.
The actor who portrays him, Giuseppe Battiston, even seems like he’s floundering through his performance. He raises his voice and throws around his pudgy belly, but is otherwise tragically underutilized.
Kyanne Lamaya portrays a new character named Fabina, a member of Stromboli’s caravan of misfits who operates her own marionette named Sabina, who feels like she was introduced to serve as a significant love interest for Pinocchio.
This is further emphasized by the fact that while she and Fabina are the only side characters to receive any substantial screen time after their initial introduction, aside from singing a few times and making a point out of having a mechanical leg, Fabina’s role is unnecessary fluff .
Sure, she becomes the only human apart from Geppetto that Pinocchio can trust, but she’s boring that you just don’t care whether she comes or goes.
There’s also the Lorraine Bracco-voiced Sofia the Seagull, a new bird character that serves little purpose other than injecting her sassy mouth into whatever scene she’s a part of and being a source of transportation.
Meanwhile, Chloe’s transition from animation to live-action was less than successful, as her face suddenly has these sharp edges that just don’t work.
Conversely, Figaro is as adorable as ever, but Disney still found a way to shoot themselves in the foot by leaving out some of his more memorable and cartoonish scenes and attributes, such as how he wears a nightcap to go to bed or at one point sits a dinner table with a napkin around his neck, silverware-in-paw.
As for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Jiminy Cricket, his voice is trash and his self-arguing, fourth-wall-breaking narration is more annoying than anything else.
Yet, perhaps the most significant changes can be seen in Zemeckis’ take on Pleasure Island itself.
In the animated film, it’s never revealed what made the boys who were kidnapped turn into donkeys, and though the story implies that their transformation was caused by their smoking cigars, drinking beer, and misbehaving, it’s ultimately left slightly ambiguous.
Zemeckis, on the other hand, swaps the cigars and beers for root beer and wanton property destruction, and while Pinocchio doesn’t partake in either, he still begins to change.
The Coachman also uses vapor creatures (I like to refer to them as donkey wrangling smoke monsters) to roundup the children – both boys and girls this time around – after they turn into donkeys.
Admittedly, the creatures are an impressive work of special effects and cool to look at, but show up so briefly that they come off like Zemeckis taking a moment to flaunt all the money he had to throw around.
High points in the film are few and far between.
Keegan-Michael Key as the voice of Zemecki’s Honest John is amazing. His performance di lui is boisterous and over the top and he seems to be having a blast voicing the character, ultimately resulting in a performance that does the animated version of the character proud.
There are also a few changes that I found entertaining.
While Monstro is no longer a while, instead being a sea monster bearing dorsal fins on its back and riddled with tentacles, his sequences are incredible to watch.
And though gone is the character of the Carnival Barker, who Honest John and Gideon employed in the original to recruit kids to Pleasure Island, Luke Evans is charismatic and Beetlejuice-esque in his role as his replacement, The Coachman – notably one of the only roles to get one of the film’s handful of decent songs.
Geppetto’s Disney clocks are also a fun cutaway gag that admittedly lasts a little too long, but is entertaining nevertheless.
Pinocchio has been begrudgingly transformed from a flawed animated masterpiece into this shiny, superfluous turd of a live-action film.
The majority of the classic characters have all been mangled to some capacity, while new characters are lame fluff who serve more as insurmountable obstacles you’re forced to endure rather than any to offer sort of entertainment value or overall purpose to the actual story.
With tangled strings and meandering storytelling, Pinocchio is a musical misfire that seemingly sets out to annihilate everything that made its animated counterpart so enjoyable.
‘Pinocchio’ Review – A Bloated, Beached Whale Of A Live-Action Remake
- Keegan-Michael Key as Honest John
- Luke Evans as The Coachman
- Old and new characters feel disposable
- New songs are forgettable
- The story is somehow even more convoluted than in the original