Disney’s original Pinnochio (from 1940, would you believe it) was one of the strange Disney classics from my childhood, along with Oliver and Co, Fox and Hound, The Rescuers, The Aristocats – Obviously I’d seen them… I think. Musical numbers – of course i’d heard and seen all of them, but had i actually seen the films in question? From Pinnochio i remember the Whale scene and the Donkey scene. But beyond that? Had i actually seen the whole film start to finish? I question it.
Anyway, i came to watch this live-action remake with some trepidation. Let me explain why: 1) its going straight to Disney +. Now why would this be? 2) I’d heard so little about it until about a month before its release and then BAM theres a teaser trailer and a release date. Alarm bells.
However, its got Tom Hanks as Gepetto (excellent casting) and it “looks” gorgeous (as in the pinnochio CGI looks fine). So i’m probably just being pessimistic.
Well. I was right to be.
Unfortunately this tale of father-son love and the adventures of a little wooden boy amounts to not much more than a soulless, heartless, narrative-less and ultimately pointless story. I hate saying it because there are moments of sheer Disney gold – Honest John, for example – but otherwise its flat as a pancake. Which is a shame. Robert Zemeckis gave us such classics as Back to the Future, Contact and Cast Away, and arguably his live-but-CGI cartoon movies like The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol have been visually stunning. But this? Figaro the Cat looks like he was drawn on with a crayon and even Tom Hanks’ eyeline doesn’t match his ersatz puppet son’s. It looks rushed together – which…is strange, given that its a streaming release and not a cinema release, with a more concrete deadline.
It feels that with a bit more money and… well, i hate to say it, but… with a bit more attention, this could have been brilliant. Its certainly not the worst of the Disney live-actions – that particular accolade lies with the truly hideous Lion King, which still has me wishing my ears had been torn off and my eyes clawed out by the dead-eyed CGI aberrations and insults to nature that we were expected to love. Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast may be shot by shot remakes but theres still a bit of Disneyesque love about them; the cast look enthused and excited. Luke Evans takes his screen-stealing Gaston and even tries to make an impact in Pinocchio but his performance is lost in that murk.
Its scary; Pinocchio’s obvious discomfort through the whole Pleasure Island sequence is genuinely disturbing, saying a lot about the quality of acting if the little fake puppet outshoots everyone else. The black clouds of infinite darkness with streetlamp eyes are frightening and the whole ‘turning into Donkeys’ is the stuff of nightmares.
I really want to like it, but the failings vast outweigh the positives. And when i start to question why i dislike it, i remember. To have a more enjoyable time, have a look through an album of telesnaps from the film, because it is really a beautiful looking film…sometimes.
Oh…and just finally – why didn’t they make it a whale? Why did it have to be some hideous space monster that looked more like Clash of the Titans’ remake Kraken, or even the Kraken from Disney’s own Pirates of the Caribbean? OR is that it? Its set in the Pirates universe?
There is one moment i can share that i did enjoy: spotting the various Disney films represented by clocks. And a random joke about Chris Pine (personally i would have extended this to also include Edward Woodward, Sycamory Weaver and Holly Valance, to name a few).
But in conclusion; this is a film that is let down by the simple fact that the least wooden of all the performances is the fake wooden puppet child. A disappointing shame.