The team behind Forrest Gump, Cast Away and The Polar Express is back, and this time they have brought their own version of one of the most famous animated classics with them. In this live-action version of the animated Disney classic from the 1940s, director Robert Zemeckis and his frequent collaborators Tom Hanks and Alan Silvestri literally bring back Pinocchio to life, and the audience couldn’t be any happier. However, updating a near-perfect film had its drawbacks, and that’s why Pinocchio isn’t able to break the jinx that seems to follow Disney’s live-action retellings around.
Pinocchio follows the adventures of a puppet who is aided in his quest to become a regular boy by Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The latter plays the narrator of the story as well as the toy boy’s conscience and it is through him the audience finds out that Italian woodcarver Geppetto (Tom Hanks) created Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) in the image of his deceased son, and wished that he becomes a real boy, without realizing that his wish might come true.
When a Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) breathes life into Pinocchio, she tells him that if he acts brave, truthful, and selfless, he might actually become a real boy, and before leaving appoints Jiminy as his conscience. From there onwards, Pinocchio’s journey into the unknown begins, where he first bonds with his creator/father and then tries to fit in with kids of his age, but when nothing seems to go in his favour, he loses his way and ends up with the wrong crowd.
How the marionette manages to escape from those who wanted to use him instead of nourishing him and returns to his father, and what lessons he learns during his stay away from home make this story a classic, since it teaches everyone from young to old about the difference between right and wrong, and why a clear conscience is necessary to move ahead in life.
This live-action version of Pinocchio follows nearly the same basic narrative as the more than the 80-year-old animated film and features many moments that make the audience feel nostalgic. Some of these moments are even memorable, and one of them appears as soon as the Disney logo leaves the screen, when Jiminy Cricket pops into the frame, singing ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’, now a part of the Disney logo. Add to that the fantastic Tom Hanks as Geppetto and you have nothing to worry about, regarding the script, plot, and narration because the Forrest Gump star doesn’t do substandard stuff.
As for the amalgamation of live-action and CGI, nobody else does a better job than Robert Zemeckis who has been doing that since the 1980s. Everything from running away from home, trying to become famous without thinking about the consequences to the nose-growing fiasco is all incorporated in this live-action version which features a masterful score and songs from veteran composer Alan Silvestri who has always been a part of Robert Zemeckis’ camp, be it Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, or even Forrest Gump. The pace with which this narrative moves forward is also commendable since it doesn’t bore the audience despite being based on a story that was penned way back in 1883.
It’s always hard to improve on something that has been around for decades, and that’s one of the biggest issues with this live-action version of Pinocchio. The story takes place in the 1880s, but somehow the cuckoo clocks feature various Disney characters like Dumbo, and Maleficent to name a few, which looks odd, weird, and queer at the same time. Similarly, there was no need to tweak the plot in some places (especially the climax) because it only confused the audience, instead of entertaining them.
Some people might not agree but Jiminy Cricket looks odd in this version of the classic animated flick. The previous one had a soothing personality but this one seems like a different person altogether. Using Keegan-Michael Key as the voice of ‘Honest’ John might have seemed good on paper but it wasn’t executed the way it could have been. Both the scheming red fox and his bumbling sidekick seemed to come out of Sesame Street rather than being a part of a live-action flick which sort of disappointed those audiences who were expecting a high-end product and were looking forward to Pinocchio’s first mishap in the real world.
Despite using Cynthia Erivo as the Blue Fairy, Luke Evans as the Coachman, and Giuseppe Battiston as Stromboli, there seems to be something missing for which the director and the producers are to be blamed. They could have used a real goldfish and a cat for the characters of Cleo the Goldfish and Figaro the Cat and could have avoided the use of actor Chris Pine’s name altogether, but they didn’t and that gave the impression of their lacklustre approach that didn’t help the film and its outcome at the box office in any way.
The Verdict 2.5/5
Disney’s live-action films in recent years from The Lion King, Aladdin, and Dumbo might have introduced those characters to the younger audience but they haven’t been able to do well at the box office. Pinocchio fails to break that jinx as well because it relies heavily on CGIs than on the storyline, which was the main attraction when Carlo Collodi’s story was first brought on screen. Yes, Robert Zemeckis is one of the best directors in the world, and Tom Hanks is amongst the most talented actors, but they weren’t able to recreate the magic that helped animated films become classics in the first place. Although it still carries a message for the young and the old and doesn’t deviate from the plot, it doesn’t have that effect on the audience that the original Pinocchio had on its loyal viewers back in the day.