Film Review: “Pinocchio” (2022)


Brielle McLearen

“Pinocchio” (2022) was released on Sept. 8 as a remake to the original. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film released to low ratings on Disney+.

Cassandra Bauer, Film Reviewer

Up next in Disney’s slue of remakes no one asked for: “Pinocchio.”

Apart from a few new minor forgettable characters and moments of racist imagery that are corrected, Robert Zemeckis’s live action meets CGI remake is a dull beat-for-beat recreation of the 1940 classic. Disney knew this too, releasing it directly to its streaming platform in lieu of granting it the theatrical treatment. 

We’re all likely familiar with the story: Geppetto, and old clock maker, carves a wooden puppet and wishes for a real boy, the puppet is brought to life by a fairy and what follows is a cautionary tale for children as Pinocchio learns what’s right and wrong through the help of his lively conscience, Jiminy Cricket.

In desperate efforts to stay relevant, Disney has crammed the film with a cast of A-listers including Tom Hanks as Geppetto, Joseph Gordan-Levitt as our narrator Jiminy Cricket, Cynthia Erivo playing the blue fairy, Luke Evans as the evil coachman and Keegan-Michael Key who is the only one of these actors providing an interesting performance. The age of the trained voice actor is over in favor of marketable celebrities.

Veteran director Robert Zemeckis was definitely the right person for the job. He does have an intrigue in innovative animation, with his previous work including animation live action cross-over “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1998) and the groundbreaking animated motion capture film “The Polar Express” (2004). He’s also a long time collaborator with Tom Hanks, which in part explains why such an celebrated actor is in this measly straight to streaming movie. Though Zemeckis does have the chops to make a hybrid CGI and live action film, in execution, it falls flat. Any time Tom Hanks picks up the shockingly small cat Figaro, it becomes blatantly obvious there was no cat there, and was sloppily added in post-production.

Tom Hanks stars as Geppetto, the creator of the wooden doll in this live-action retelling of the classic Disney animated film. (Screengrab from “Pinocchio” (2022))

Pinocchio is carefully created to look just like his cheery 1940 cartoon counterpart, which feels starkly out of place in the muted Italian village where the film takes place. In contrast, the talking animals are created with a high intensity of realism which forces the characters to lose their expressiveness. 2019’s “The Lion King” faced similar problems with the life-like lions unable to make facial expressions. Disney does not seem to realize that some stories lend themselves better to classic animation.

The question I keep asking myself is: Why make the remake? You could easily say this rehashing of nostalgic property must cease entirely, but there are some advantages to adapting an older story. It can reintroduce a classic work to a modern audience, providing people an entry point to the original material, or it can broaden the audience to reach those it couldn’t the first time, but it almost always should offer something new to the story. The story of Pinocchio is no stranger to adaptations, seeing two films about the wooden boy in the past year, and another darker version of the tale directed by Guillermo del Toro set to be released on Netflix in December. The issue with this “Pinocchio” is that it brings nearly nothing new to the table. Disney’s next attempt at a nostalgic cash grab is a dud.

“Pinocchio” is now streaming on Disney Plus.