REVIEW: Pinocchio, Disney Plus

This latest Disney live action film doesn’t quite hit the heart in the same way as the original 1940 film does – despite the comforting presence of Tom Hanks.

Even as a child, I found the story of Pinocchio a bit of an odd one – not the type of story you would have imagined Disney wanting to originally transform into an animated film – but now as this life action film once again highlights this.

Based on the original story by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio follows the adventures of a wooden boy who embarks on a journey to becoming a real boy – with the help of Jiminy Cricket who becomes his reluctant concious to help teach him right from wrong. This of course doesn’t go according to plan as he meets all manner of shady characters who get Pinocchio into all kinds of difficulties along the way.

Featuring a screenplay by Chris Weitz and Robert Zemeckis (who also directs), it all feels a little bit emotionally disjointed – switching between sentimentality and humour with a little unease. This perhaps is not surprising given the unusualnessof the story – but it does make the film feel unsettled throughout as if no one is quite sure what to make of the story and how to make it coherent. In fact, it would be fair to say that the strongest moments in Pinocchio involve Tom Hanks who plays the toymaker Gepetto – who really gets to the heart of the character’s loneliness, pain and grief – the opening 10 minutes in which his character takes centre stage effectively draw the audience into his world and it is a shame that Gepetto is not at the heart of it all.

While the film quite naturally needs to use CGI to capture certain characters such as Honest John, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket – it is then difficult in a way it wasn’t for the animated film to get a strong sense of the characters and feel emotionally connected to them. However, the CGI is effective in highlighting the more adventurous moments of the story (the scenes at Pleasure Island for example both dazzled and terrified me as they did in the animated film).

Musically, there are some lovely new arrangements of songs such as ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ (gorgeously performed by Cynthia Erivo as the graceful Blue Fairy) and ‘I’ve Got No Strings’ for example – but I wasn’t too convinced by the new songs which feel almost a distraction from the story – but I understand the need for the film to add fresh new songs to appeal to a new audience.

While yes this new film highlights the confusing nature of the story, it is still a well-intentioned film with a strong cast bringing it all to life. Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes for a delightfully perky Jiminy, Kyanne Lamaya as new character Fabiana adds an extra dimension as she communicates with Pinocchio via a marionette is a charming and thoughtful addition to the story and Giuseppe Battiston makes for a chilling Stromboli.

This version of Pinocchio might not win over new fans given the nature of the story and is flawed but it does enough to entertain audiences.

By Emma Clarendon

Pinocchio is available to watch on Disney Plus now.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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