Pinocchio (2022), like many of the live-action Disney movies, is a difficult movie to review. You have to balance the nostalgia you feel toward the original animated movie with the understanding that these new films aren’t really made for me. They’re made for a new generation, to get them hooked on Disney movies the same way we were growing up.
Still, I can honestly say that if the House of Mouse is trying to encourage younger people and kids to get into their family movies, they’d be better off showing them the original ’40s Pinocchio because the remake is dreadful, and I don’t use that word lightly. Everything about this film is a downgrade from the original.
The story’s basically the same, a carpenter named Gepetto (Tom Hanks) builds a wooden boy and wishes his marionette son would come to life. The Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) half grants his wish and brings the puppet named Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) to life but does not make him a “real boy”.
Instead, Pinocchio must prove himself worthy of becoming flesh and blood by being good and the fairy tasks Jimminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon Levitt) with serving as Pinocchio’s conscience. If you’re reading this, you know the rest of the story – Pinocchio gets caught up in a big adventure that culminates in him being eaten by a whale.
Right, let’s get to the big reason this film does not work. The VFX are atrocious. We’re talking Ally McBeal Dancing Baby levels of bad at times. While watching the film, I did not believe that Gepetto and Pinocchio were in the same room or touching, which is surprising considering this film was directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Zemeckis was the mastermind behind the comedy movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which made me believe Bob Hoskins and a cartoon rabbit were in the same room back in the ’80s. Unfortunately, Pinocchio has a touch of the Polar Express about it, with the characters’ eye lines failing to match up and dead-eyed CGI monsters staring off into space.
I’m sorry to say it as well, but Pinocchio is creepy. He’s a living puppet, essentially a family-friendly Chucky. The original kid’s movie managed to dodge the Uncanny Valley by being animated. Here the sheer unnaturalness of Pinocchio is laid bare by putting him next to live-action actors. Had they made Pinocchio an animatronic, they may have gotten away with it, but the fact he’s a VFX character only heightens his general weirdness.
Still, the cast is pretty stacked, so you’d imagine they’d do a good job, right? Well, they don’t do a bad job, but despite Disney expanding this adaptation, the story’s still pretty threadbare. As such, neither Hanks nor Levitt gets all that much to do, and they fail to leave any real impression. Erivo, however, is probably the worst treated of the main cast, with the Blue Fairy’s role cut down quite a lot leaving her with just one scene in the whole film.
As for the songs? Well, I’m sorry to raise the spectre of the original once again, but they’re not a patch on the ’40s Pinocchio’s tunes. The best Disney song in the film is probably ‘I’ve Got No Strings’, but it’s not even as good as the version Ulton sang in the MCU movie Age of Ultron.
If I had to say anything good about this, I liked Luke Evans as the nefarious Coachman and the Pleasure Island. While they took out the alcohol and smoking (unsurprisingly), the sequence maintains the sinister spirit of the original, and the donkey transformation is no less horrifying than the original.
Were I to be charitable, I might suggest if you’ve never seen the original, you might get something out of Pinocchio (2022), but for me, this is another live-action dud from the House of Mouse.
Pinocchio (2022) review
Pinocchio (2022) fails to live up to its magical predecessor.