SYNOPSIS: Academy Award® winner Robert Zemeckis directs this live action retelling of the beloved tale of a wooden puppet who embarks on a thrilling adventure to become a real boy.
As far as this reviewer can recall, the two scariest Disney villains of all time have to be the headless horseman and Monstro. Both mean, wrathful and vengeful, these two definitely give young kids the creeps which precisely why it made Pinocchio so memorable to me till this day.
Monstro returns to haunt me in this live remake of Pinocchio although I must clarify that I have battle enough demons to be afraid of an onscreen gigantic sea creature. Robert Zemeckis once again collaborates with his The Polar Express leading man, Tom Hanks for this remake of the 1940 animated film of the same name.
For those too young to remember the story of Pinocchio, Hanks plays an elderly woodcarver, Geppetto who makes a wish on a star to turn his marionette alive. And of course, his wish came true and the marionette whom he named as Pinocchio comes alive with the help of the Blue Fairy. But in order to become a real boy, Pinocchio must learn how to be brave, truthful and selfless and a wisecracking cricket, Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is appointed as Pinocchio’s conscience to teach him between what’s wrong and what’s right.
Expectedly, Pinocchio runs into all sorts of troubles from a conman named Honest John (Keegan Michael-Key) to Stromboli (Giuseppe Battiston), a cruel puppet master to the mysterious charming Coachman (Luke Evans), who kidnaps and lures kids to Pleasure Island and turned them into donkeys.
The latest adaptation by Zemeckis and Chris Weitz (American Pie, The Golden Compass) retains the story of the 1940 original animated feature with very minor tweaks. In a weird attempt to attract the young crowd, references to modern-day pop cultures are included such as the term “influencer” and “Chris Pine”. And in order to pad up the running time to 111 minutes, there’s a draggy moment where the topic of fame is discussed. And instead of referring to the source material for more inspiration, we are introduced to Fabiana (Kyanne Lamaya) who works for Stromboli’s traveling puppet show and Pinocchio’s only human friend. Not that Fabiana is a bad character but she’s not given a whole of opportunity to bring the story forward.
Zemeckis who is known for his visual effects heavy movies and his failed motion capture animated flicks delivers a movie that is mixed with both good and bad CG effects. The first half genuinely features some dazzling visuals while the other half especially the finale which has Monstro chasing after Pinocchio and gang in the ocean looks embarrassingly amateur even on a small screen. Even Pinocchio’s closeups look incredibly flat.
Strangely, there’s nothing that stood out from this live-action remake despite the numerous star-studded talents involved. The story is familiar to the point that it is bland. Tom Hanks and Joseph Gordon-Levitt sounds totally out of place and worst of all, the visuals look cheap and lazy. Disney’s strategy of constantly remaking classics into live-action is going nowhere by the look of it. With the exception of a few (The Lion King, The Beauty and the Beast), the rest are mostly mere fillers for Disney+.
Review by Linus Tee