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Pinocchio 2022 review: Disney remake pales in comparison to original

The new adaptation is not whimsical or macabre enough to be a worthwhile remake – and isn't helped by some ugly CGI.

Pinocchio
Disney
Published: Thursday, 8th September 2022 at 8:01 am
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A star rating of 2 out of 5.

All of a sudden, Pinocchio is absolutely everywhere. Three years on from the release of Matteo Garrone's Italian-language version, not one but two new adaptations of the tale of the wooden boy are scheduled for release in the latter half of 2022.

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In November, The Shape of Water and Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro will provide his hotly-anticipated take on the classic fairytale, but first up is this Disney Plus version – which sees the House of Mouse continue its recent fascination with remaking its own animated classics as live-action/CGI hybrids.

As has been the case with most of these remakes – such as Dumbo, Aladdin, and The Lion King – the film boasts a starry cast and big name director. Tom Hanks, Luke Evans and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are among those to take on iconic roles, while Robert Zemeckis – whose 1988 classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit remains perhaps the best example of mixing live action with animation – is the man behind the camera.

Despite that pedigree, however, this film never does enough to justify its own existence, failing to improve on the tremendous 1940 animation in any meaningful way.

The screenplay from Zemeckis and Chris Weitz is largely faithful to the narrative of the previous film, which itself differs a great deal from the original Italian source material.

As in the 1940 version, Jiminy Cricket (Gordon-Levitt) is our way into the story, guiding us from the early appearance of the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) – who first brings the titular puppet to life – to the almost surrealist trip to Pleasure Island in the final act, complete with donkey transformations, whale swallowing, and all the rest of it.

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There are, however, a couple of updates, including the addition of a new female puppet named Sabina and her owner Fabiana, as well as a slightly more ambiguous ending.

Meanwhile, songwriting duo Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard have provided four new musical numbers for this production, including one sung by Hanks' Geppetto and another by Evans' Coachman.

These new tracks are fine but fairly forgettable, and certainly can't live up to the songs that are brought over from the previous film, including Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee and When You Wish Upon a Star – although perhaps that's no great surprise given the latter remains Disney's theme song all these years later.

As for the script, there are numerous attempts to update the dialogue for a 21st-century audience – including references to influencers and a name drop for Chris Pine – but these largely come across as pretty cringeworthy. And it doesn't help that many of the hyperactive voice performances are quite grating, a far cry from the gentle charm of the previous film.

It would probably be unfair to say that the film is completely devoid of merit. The story itself, for example, is timeless and should keep young audiences engaged – particularly those who aren't already familiar with the story. And there is also some impressive production design, especially in Geppetto's workshop – which includes several cuckoo clocks containing references to other Disney films.

But all too often the film is hampered by ugly CGI that makes the whole movie something of an eyesore, especially compared to the original, which remains such a tremendous feat of animation more than 80 years after its release. This CGI Pinocchio, for example, never feels as expressive as the 1940 version, nor does Jiminy Cricket seem as warm and likeable.

The final act of the 1940 film is perhaps one of the most nightmarish things Disney has ever released – and even though this version follows roughly the same plot, it's unable to recreate the same disturbing tone. Frankly, the whole production just doesn't contain the same magic – it isn't whimsical or macabre enough to be a worthwhile remake.

Pinocchio is streaming now on Disney Plus – sign up to Disney Plus for £7.99 a month or £79.90 for a year. Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

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