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Pinocchio (2022) Review | movies

September 8, 2022

It’s the olden days, and in old-timey Italy, old-timer Geppetto (Tom Hanks) builds a small wooden puppet named Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). Soon agog at the outside world, Pinocchio is tempted by fun, games and all manner of naughtiness, striding out on his own – to the dismay of his broken-hearted father.

Once upon a time, Walt Disney Pictures began producing so-called live-action remakes of their animated classics. Beauty And The Beast, The Lion King, Jungle Book, Aladdin… on it goes, until we forget there was ever such a thing as hand-drawn animation. They’ve been so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Today’s CGI offers the chance for animated characters to look real. Yet it’s all a little mind-scrambling. italian director Matteo Garrone’s gorgeous, inventive 2019 take on Carlo Collodi’s 1883 book cast a, well, real boy as Pinocchio, with gobsmacking prosthetics that made him genuinely look like he was made of wood. Robert Zemeckis‘film makes him genuinely look like he’s made of CGI.

Is this a facetious reading? Maybe. Here, Pinocchio is a puppet-sized puppet, just as the original was — a cute, wide-eyed, tiny little thing. And he looks magnificent. It’s incredible work, absolutely the film’s selling point: that iconic wooden boy come to life. Yet it’s not a persuasive enough reason for the film to exist.

the original 1940 film is a quaint, twee affair. Tonally, Zemeckis honors that, with sporadically charming results. His screenplay of him, written with Chris Weitz (who also worked on Kenneth Branagh’s cinderella), gently contemporises it here and there, and attempts to add some emotional heft. Tom Hanks‘ Geppetto, while reliably cuddly, is now imbued with some sadness, constructing the puppet not just because he wants a boy, but because he lost one. It’s a sweet, touching idea that alas is never fully explored after that, presumably because Zemeckis can’t properly smuggle a story about a dead kid into his all-singing, all-dancing pinocchio remake

Ultimately, it’s all a bit flat, and feels like an exercise. It exists because it can.

It all swings back and forth between old and new ideas. Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a fun remake of the original Jiminy Cricket; Keegan-Michael Key is a lively version of the old Honest John; Cynthia Erivo is great but underused as the Blue Fairy. Lorraine Bracco plays a seagull called Sofia, only really here, it seems, to ferry Jiminy around. Luke Evans is a rambunctious version of Pleasure Island’s coachman, with a big new song to sing, Evans giving his lungs a substantial workout.

All of this is… fine. And a bit all over the shop, with an eclectic aesthetic — a Tom Hanks who is real, a CGI puppet that looks real, a CGI cat that doesn’t. Cameos from the likes of Sheila Atim and Jamie Demetriou are so perplexingly brief, you wonder where they’ve gone. But the biggest problem is with the story, which is hard to get right in any case. Collodi’s original was episodic, written and published in installations, made up as he went along, and every adaptation lurches about pretty erratically. The 1940 film streamlined some things while removing others, leaving unresolved threads, which remains the case here. And it’s hard to invest much in Geppetto and Pinocchio’s relationship when they spend barely any time together.

Ultimately, it’s all a bit flat, and feels like an exercise. It exists because it can. Guillermo del Toro’s darker, political take for Netflix is ​​up next and, however that turns out, it’s been in the works for years and years and is very much a passion project. You’d be hard-pressed to make that claim here.

Though not without charm, and some splendid CGI, this scattershot grab-bag of good intentions results in a bit of an emotional flatline. This puppet will not tug on your heartstrings.

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