‘Pinocchio’ Movie Review: An Upgrade Rather Than A Retelling

pinocchio disneyplus movie

The live-action adaptation of Disney's PINOCCHIO starring Tom Hanks as Geppetto and a CGI wooden boy is a shot-by-shot recreation of the 1940's Disney classic in a more visually-stunning format with many Easter Eggs for Disney fans.  Aside from the cinematic upgrade and addition of a diverse cast, Disney+'s PINOCCHIO doesn't offer much in terms of novelty. 

Academy Award® winner Robert Zemeckis brings Pinocchio to life in live-action form and reunites the director with Hanks (THE POLAR EXPRESS). The screenplay for PINOCCHIO is by Zemeckis and Chris Weitz.

Tom Hanks is Geppetto, the wood carver who builds Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) from wood in remembrance of his late son. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Jiminy Cricket, Academy Award® nominee Cynthia Erivo is the Blue Fairy; Keegan-Michael Key is "Honest" John; Academy Award® nominee Lorraine Bracco is Sofia the Seagull, a new character, and Luke Evans is The Coachman. Also in the cast are Kyanne Lamaya as Fabiana and Jaquita Ta’Le as her marionette Sabina, Giuseppe Battiston as Stromboli and Lewin Lloyd as Lampwick.

The one thing no one can dispute about Zemeckis' PINOCCHIO is the improvement over the 1940 2D animation version. The Disney+ movie is a visual upgrade with breathtaking cinematography and a flawless CGI wooden boy voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth. The mix of live-action and CGI characters is quite impressive, except for a scene on the ocean. Rapid movements on the water have a blur motion that takes you out of the moment but luckily it was evident on one occasion.

Pinocchio's rendering is identical to the classic version but the CGI wooden boy looks more alive in its new form. The voice by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth is also very similar to the 2D character. The familiarity makes the viewer feel right at home with the classic character. When it comes to adapting classic Disney movies, Pinocchio seems like a good candidate for the live-action reboot since the main character is a CGI character rather than finding a human actor who resembles the character.

The 66-year-old Tom Hanks seems a tad too young to play the wooden carver Gepetto. While his physicality is that of a grandfather, Hank's face wasn't aged up which seems like a disconnect. However, it doesn't take away from his endearing performance as the boy's father.

Tom Hanks as Gepetto in Disney Plus Pinocchio movie

Cynthia Erivo plays the Blue Fairy and her rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star" is a soulful melody that brings about some goosebumps. Joseph Gordon-Levitt voices Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio’s "conscience, and the narrator of the story doesn't quite match the original.

The majority of the story remains the same with minimal changes like Easter Eggs with Disney character cameos, but these Disney live-action remakes are meant for a new generation. Perhaps we should stop calling them "remakes" and refer to them as "upgrades."  As someone who was tempted to compare the new version with the original, the 4:3 frame size and dated 2D animation couldn't hold my attention after 20 minutes.  

If audiences want something different, look to Guillermo del Toro's stop-motion/horror version of PINOCCHIO coming to Netflix in December. 

Disney+'s PINOCCHIO is now streaming on Disney+.

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