‘Pinocchio’ Review: A Remake as Wooden and Lifeless as a Puppet

Disney stop remaking all your animated classics challenge.

“Pinocchio” is the latest live-adaptation of an original animated film by Disney. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film follows the little wooden puppet who comes alive after a magical wish. Benjamin Evan Ainsworth voices the titular character, with Tom Hanks as Geppetto and Cynthia Erivo, Giuseppe Battiston, Luke Evans, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Keegan-Michael Key in supporting roles.

The Disney live-action remakes have had a pretty rough go. Either the films are uninspired and shot-for-shot (“The Lion King”) or lose everything that made audiences fall in love with the story in the first place (“Mulan”). They do occasionally work when the filmmakers take bits of the lore but still make it their own, like “Cruella.” “Pinocchio” unfortunately falls mostly into the first group: a film that is as dull and lifeless as a wooden puppet.

I’m a big Robert Zemeckis fan, I think he’s up there with James Cameron as far as technical pioneers go, thanks to the likes of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “Back to the Future.” However there is none of the heart, style, and passion to be found here that linger around his normal productions. The film almost feels like a stage play, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. Everything feels condensed and flat, because it’s painfully clear everything we are watching is taking place on a soundstage in front of a green screen.

The CGI on Pinocchio is decent in some scenes, but uncanny valley in others. Characters’ eyes don’t always line up while interacting with him, and Benjamin Evan Ainsworth’s vocal performance is, at best, bland (and at its worst, annoying).

But it’s not just Ainsworth; everyone here seems miscast and/or phoning it in. Tom Hanks, one of the best and most-likable actors of all-time, gives his second-straight bad performance after “Elvis,” and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is unrecognizable voicing Jiminy Cricket (and not in a good way, he gets grating quick).

The film follows the same story beats as the 1940 original, but when presented in live-action, and after nearly a century of movies between then and now, it comes off much more disjointed. Pinocchio jumps around from traveling show, to Pleasure Island, to the open ocean, with not so much as a string to hold the plot together. You just never feel like you’re on a true adventure, nor do you really care about rooting for him to return home.

“Pinocchio” is on Disney+ for free and yet I still feel like I am owed money back. It’s not the most egregious thing ever put on film, but it’s just another half-baked Disney effort to milk nostalgia from adults and insult the intelligence of today’s kids. When I saw Zemeckis was attached to direct I had hoped this could be one of the best modern retellings, but it ends up being the worst.

Critics Rating: 3/10


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