Did you know that the original, animated version of Pinocchio is 82 years old this year? Did you also know it was based on an 1883 Italian book, The Adventures of Pinocchio, written by author Carlo Collodi? Did you know that almost 150 years after the story was published, Walt Disney Pictures is bringing a live-action version of its animated classic film, to life this month? Did you also know that there will be a second, darker version of Pinocchio premiering in November distributed by Netflix animation? While there will be comparisons made to Disney's live-action version, the two films are unique and interesting in various ways.
In a small village, there is a woodcarver/toymaker named Geppetto (Tom Hanks; Forrest Gump). One day, tired of being lonely, he carves a puppet to look like a little boy, who he names Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth; The Haunting of Bly Manor) and treats the doll as if it were Geppetto's son. Overhearing, Geppetto's wish, the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo; Widows) makes Pinocchio come to life but warns him that he needs to learn to be a good boy, with the help of Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Looper), to stay a real boy.
As one of the elder statesmen in the film industry, Hanks has become a "go-to" guy, turning in solid, if not Oscar-worthy performances pretty much every time. He is a box office draw who almost guarantees profits at movie theaters and through streaming services. He is joined by the equally as talented Gordon-Levitt, Erivo, and Keegan-Michael Key (Tomorrowland). Ainsworth is also excellent and displays vocal talent that, over time, with training can become a beautifully toned instrument.
The combination of live-action with some animation is certainly not a new concept but does seem to have improved a great deal in the past few decades. Jiminy has some weird-looking features but overall is well drawn. It is obvious that Pinocchio's features have been painstakingly shaded, and thoroughly reviewed to help with the illusion that he is real. The music is well done setting the tone and mood for what is to come. Of course, one would be disappointed if Pinocchio failed to deliver the quality product expected from Disney.
Admittedly, I have never been a big fan of the story and 1940 movie of Pinocchio so the bar was set very low for this adaptation. Hanks is excellent but, let's face it, he could have practically dialed this one in. Disney cast a multitude of celebrities from Broadway to comedic movie stars to keep up with him and they all bring their A-game.
Several scenes stand out including when Pinocchio and Geppetto are trapped inside the whale, and when Pinocchio is on Pleasure Island. Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast) brings that scene to life pulling from his musical theater background to offer a spectacular show.
Legendary Director Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) grabs the reigns of Pinocchio and infuses the movie with his unique style.
While Pinocchio has a stellar cast, excellent production values, and a large budget, it fails to keep a solid pace throughout, which ultimately leads to its downfall for me. My biggest issue with the old and new versions of this classic tale is the story itself. I think it is boring so it doesn't hold my attention. I do appreciate the effort put forth and, if you loved the 1940 version, then this one should be right up your alley.