THE MOVIE GUY — Average “Pinocchio” only works up to a certain point

Published 12:04 am Friday, September 9, 2022

“Pinocchio”

Disney+ Films

Directed by Robert Zemeckis

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Starring Tom Hanks, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Cynthia Erivo, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Kyanne Lamaya, Loraine Bracco and Keegan Michael Key

Rated PG

 

2 ½ Stars

 

Disney’s practice of turning their classic animated movies into modern, live action spectacles continues with the release of “Pinocchio” this week on Disney+.

I’m not sure there was a public call to remake this movie, but the new film does feature a better-than-average cast and should appeal to parents looking to entertain elementary school-aged children.

The story stays faithful to the 1940 movie. Geppetto (Tom Hanks) is a woodcarver who wishes upon a star that his new puppet, Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) was a real boy, prompting the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) to grant his heart’s desire.

With a little magic, Pinocchio becomes a sentient puppet. He is sent out into the world to find the qualities needed to become a real boy, but he will find a lot of mischief before he learns to be “brave, truthful and unselfish.”

The original story was meant to be a morality tale, teaching young boys the value of doing what is right, rather than what feels right.

That’s still the case in this update, although I’m not sure any of the lessons truly resonate. Here, they are simply a series of adventures Pinocchio survives, rather than the life-changing events they are meant to be.

Case in point, Pinocchio’s nose famously grows whenever he tells a lie. That only happens once in this new movie, and it ends up being the thing that get’s Pinocchio out of a jam.

The puppet’s lies become a useful tool, and then it is completely disregarded so the filmmakers can move on to the next adventure.

I do appreciate the minor tweaks to the story, including the inclusion of a young puppeteer (Kyanne Lamaya) who befriends Pinocchio. I wish there had been more of this subplot, but once again, the story is forced to discard her so that they can move along to the next adventure.

The good news is the film is populated with superb actors who frequently rise above the material. Hanks is perfectly cast as the lonely woodcarver, and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt makes for an appealing Jiminy Cricket.

And then there’s Keegan Michael Key, who steals the show playing the over-the-top fox named Honest John who tempts Pinocchio into running off and joining a traveling theater. I realize he’s a villain in this story, but I would love to watch Honest John go on further adventures.

Ironically, since Honest John is a fox, this live action remake of the animated classic requires the filmmakers to animate many of the characters and settings. It’s couched as realistic-looking animation, but that excuse only works up to a certain point.

That’s a good summation of the entire movie. The movie is fine, with some nice character work and fun adventures, but it only works up to a certain point.

There’s nothing in this movie that will truly resonate with its young audiences. The 1940 version of “Pinocchio” is a classic. This Disney+ remake is only an okay, but pedestrian remake.

 

 Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Port Arthur Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at sean@seanthemovieguy.com.