Over the past decade, Disney has made it a habit of remaking some of its biggest animated classics in live action. Sometimes the decision to remake these films works out well (Cinderella), but oftentimes, audiences are left feeling as though the remakes don’t live up to par (Dumbo). Unfortunately, while visually stunning, Pinocchio seems likely to fall in the latter category. It feels like a lifeless remake that does a poor job at adapting such a beloved animated classic.
Disney’s animated Pinocchio was released on February 23, 1940, and was based on the novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. The animated movie told the story of the living puppet, Pinocchio, and the cricket that serves as his conscience to help Pinocchio as he seeks to become a real boy. The live-action remake, of course, follows the same path. Unfortunately, though, it lacks the same charm and care as its predecessor. Sure, Tom Hanks‘ casting as Geppetto is fantastic. He captures the oddities of the character and easily steals every moment that he appears on the screen. The problem, however, is Hanks’ time as Geppetto is short, and when he isn’t around? This take on Pinocchio struggles to find its footing.
Benjamin Evan Ainsworth does an excellent job voicing Pinocchio. He captures the emotions wonderfully, from confusion, to love and sadness – his vocal performance is up there with Hanks’ take on Geppetto. But as great as the two leads are, the secondary cast is forgettable – albeit not through any faults of their own. Giuseppe Battiston‘s Stromboli isn’t given much to work with and fails to be as imposing of a character as he should’ve been. And Honest John and Gideon feel underused despite essentially serving their purpose. It’s frustrating because, by the end of the movie, it’s hard to recall what should’ve been a noteworthy performance by Keegan-Michael Key (Honest John). And while Luke Evans does get to shine in the few moments he’s on screen as the Coachman, this is mainly due to the iconic numbers he gets to belt out. Ultimately, for such a stellar cast, the film fails to truly use any of them properly and it’s frustrating.
The fact of the matter is this take on Pinocchio never truly feels necessary. Yes, there are good moments, and there’s no denying the visuals are stunning. Outside of that, though, there’s truly nothing new that the animated classic doesn’t already have to offer audiences. To remake something, there needs to be a good reason to do so, but that special charm and wonder provided by the animated film does not exist in this remake. The musical numbers are still catchy – and Cynthia Erivo‘s brief musical moment as the Blue Fairy is stunningly done – but outside of that? There’s nothing truly memorable here.
That isn’t to say families won’t find joy in this film. For audiences not yet introduced to the animated film, Pinocchio will probably delight. Those that grew up on the classic, however, will struggle to find anything of note in this live action remake. Well-done visuals does not a great movie make. Pinocchio needed a bit more room to breathe. While the movie does a good job modernizing certain scenes – Pleasure Island, mainly – it often falls short elsewhere because it omits scenes that help to make the animated film the classic that it has become.
Perhaps Netflix’s version, coming later this year, will offer an exciting new take on a beloved classic. For now, fans can check out Pinocchio only on Disney+.