Pinocchio (2022)

Pinocchio (2022) Cover

Pinocchio is a 2022 adaptation of one of Disney’s most beloved classic films from 1940 and is directed by Robert Zemeckis. I was not allowed to release my review until the day of its release; it was embargoed by Disney until 12:01 AM the day of release, which displays Disney’s lack of confidence in this rendition of Pinocchio, as most films are embargoed until the week of release.

When I was a child in the 90s, I rented the film The Adventures of Pinocchio (directed by Steve Barron) and was relentlessly disappointed at how it did not feel like the 1940 film I grew up watching. What I was looking for at the tiny age of 7 years old was something like this 2022 Disney film; a rehash of the same story and Disney style that I loved in live action format. As an adult, there’s elements of 2022 Pinocchio that I admired, mostly in the 1st act, but it all goes downhill slowly as the film progresses and it ends on a giant mucky note. Kids may appreciate the recreation of the story but the animated 1940 film will always be superior.

Geppetto (Tom Hanks), a toy maker and clock collector, builds a puppet he names Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and wishes that one day he will be a real boy. The Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) brings the still-life puppet to life and says he will become a real boy if he proves himself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish. Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is Pinocchio’s "conscience" and helps Pinocchio make right choices.

Tom Hanks plays a charming elder Geppetto. He is given a little bit more flesh, as it is implied that he previously had a son. The fact that he no longer has a son is mysteriously intriguing but also creates a pathos reasoning as to why we want to see him happy with Pinocchio. Hanks nails the role and it is interesting to see him switch from his recent role in Elvis (which had a unique accent) to his role as Geppetto, which requires a completely different elder tender-hearted voice and shows the wide range of Hanks’ talent.

I do like that the buffoons that initially get Pinocchio to join the theater, tell Pinocchio he can be an “influencer” and famous. That is language that appeals to children today who yearn for social media influence. These characters look just as they do in the animated film. Additionally, the songs in the original film are all included in this rendition.

There’s many critics who will say, “Disney should not be re-creating their classics; why reinvent the wheel if the original film is already a beloved classic?” I understand their point but I do not necessarily agree with it. If you’ve ever gone to see a broadway adaptation, play, or musical that was based on a film the reasoning was because you wanted to see the story you loved presented in a new art form. Live action remakes are essentially the same thing; we are seeing the same story be presented in a new art form. My problem is not the decision to translate this film to live action, but Pinocchio is such a hokey story that lent itself more to an animation medium than live-action because of the outrageous events that occur; from a public puppet show, to a growing nose, and giant sea monster that swallows a family, it’s hard to do all of those things in live-action format. 

The set decoration is gorgeous and cinematography by Don Burgess is eye-popping. Despite a few scenes being very dark and difficult to see, the lush colors of the small folk town, Pleasure Island, and the sea are all aesthetically pleasing and composed in a delightful manner. The clocks in Geppetto’s home are interesting as you’d expect, but in this modern version they incorporate classic Disney characters, such as Woody and Bullseye from Toy Story, Snow White and the Evil Queen, and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. The CGI does have some eye-brow-raising moments, mostly in Pleasure Island; while it would be difficult to translate what was done in the animated film, they try their best but it still looks incredibly fake. Pinocchio looks fabulous, particularly the subtle detail of the wood pattern amongst his body; it truly makes it feel that he was made from pine wood. It’s Pinocchio’s eyes that don’t always ring true because the rest of his body is so wooden like, the animated rich blue eyes conflict with how the rest of the body looks. 

What makes the movie suffer tremendously is new characters and new music that slow down the pacing. The new songs in this film are all forgettable. The opening song sung by Geppato does add flesh to Geppetto’s character (as mentioned earlier) but it’s not catchy or memorable. The other new songs are even worse, as they do not add depth to any important characters nor are they winning any awards for Best Original Song. One is a song sung by Kyanne Lamaya, who plays Fabiana, a puppeteer, who befriends Pinocchio. While she is a nice friend, her character is never given much depth and feels unnecessarily shoved into this film. Even worse, is a song sung by the man who takes the children to Pleasure Island. We never see this guy again but have to endure a song before the kids arrive at Pleasure Island. 
There’s a few small story choices that also bothered me. In this story, Pinocchio makes it to school but is kicked out by the teacher who explains, “school is for real children” and it makes me wonder why Geppato never ensured that Pinocchio attending the school would be appropriate, or at least walk with him to school (the reason why is there’s no movie if he does that). In the cartoon, it doesn’t really look odd but in this film, it is laughable seeing Geppetto walk around the thundering town with his goldfish Cleo and adorable kitty Figaro waltzing around the town shouting, “Pinocchio!” The ending (which I will not spoil) doesn’t end how you would expect and it made all these other small things that bothered me add up to a giant sour grape. The original film is about 20 minutes shorter and that brevity makes it much easier to endure; whereas this newer film has some technical aspects that do not work with it, new characters and songs that were unnecessary, and a disappointing ending.

Ultimately, children may not mind as much and there’s aspects of the adaptation to admire, but anyone who compares this to the 1940 film should think that the original film is an all-around better experience.

Final Verdict:This newer film has some technical aspects that do not work with it, new characters and songs that were unnecessary, and a disappointing ending.