Disney’s history with live-action remakes of its animated classics is a very mixed bag. A handful, namely ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Jungle Book’, have worked fairly well. Others, most notably ‘Maleficent’ and ‘Dumbo’, failed spectacularly, and those in between have just been long forgotten. When a live-action remake of the Disney classic ‘Pinocchio’ was announced with Robert Zemeckis in the director’s chair and Tom Hanks starring as Geppetto, the idea of this project actually coming to fruition was pretty exciting. When it was announced that the film would be dumped straight onto Disney Plus and released via streaming instead of theatrically, that was significantly less exciting as it hinted that the movie was not of suitable quality to be shown in theaters. Sure enough, the film is currently getting eviscerated by critics across the board for a variety of reasons. Some have called it a dud of a remake, others calling it borderline creepy, but the general consensus has been that this was an entirely unnecessary movie.
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Perhaps Disney happened to develop and release two different ‘Pinnochio’ movies starring Tom Hanks. Maybe I was just in a good mood after having finally got home from work or was just happy to be eating something after being hungry for hours. I really liked ‘Pinocchio’. The film maintained much of the heart and soul of the original classic, added enough changes to prevent itself from being a shot-by-shot remake, utilized its high production value to serve the plot, and made the most out of its on-screen talent.
A Film Carried By Its Wooden Star
Pinocchio is voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, known for his role in Netflix’s ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ as well as in ‘The Sandman’. Ainsworth brings the necessary child-like innocence to the character and effortlessly gets the viewer to sympathize with this wooden puppet trying to understand the world around him and how it works. But Ainsworth’s performance is just one part of why Pinocchio works well as a character. The animation of the character looks identical to that of the original yet somehow looks like a real wood carving. It is here that the visual effects especially deserve praise. The CGI in this film wasn’t used solely to make everything look breathtaking, but mainly to enhance the emotional effect of everything taking place. Pinocchio’s character is the best example of this. The character’s various movements, postures, and facial expressions get us to believe this character as well as empathize with him. For instance, when Pinocchio performs on stage only to have the audience laugh at him, the look on his face put together with his shy posture was just straight up heartbreaking.
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The writing of the character was also spot on. Unlike Disney’s remake of ‘The Lion King’, the film did not rehash almost every line of dialogue from the original. The character needed to be updated so audiences in 2022 can buy that this is someone trying to understand the world and the individuals in it. In other words, this felt like a more modern iteration of the same character in the original film. Same spirit, different dialogue.
Expanding On The Original
Returning to the primary problem with ‘The Lion King’, remakes are unnecessary if nothing new is added or expanded upon. ‘Pinocchio’ expanded on certain plot elements of the original. We got a whole new dimension to the Geppetto character, an added reason as to why Pinocchio turns away from school, and a new character whom Pinocchio meets at the circus.
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The film does have a couple of issues, however. The character of Stromboli was very over the top, primarily due to his appearance. The hair and the costume could have been a bit more subtle. Also the new character whom Pinocchio meets at the circus, played by Jaquita Ta’le, does bring a new subplot to the story, but it feels sort of thrown in with little to no development. The idea of having Jiminy Cricket constantly separated from Pinocchio is something I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, it diminished the character’s role and significance in the story. But on the other hand, one can see what the possible message was. Jiminy is Pinocchio’s conscience and Pinocchio constantly loses Jiminy, metaphorically implying that he lost his conscience whenever he was with Stromboli or at Pleasure Island, so this one may not be an issue.
‘Pinocchio’ – An Overall Enjoyable Remake
To echo what many critics of the film are saying, this movie is definitely an attempted cash grab on the part of Disney. With the growing portfolio of live-action remakes they’ve put out and the equally growing list of those they’re adding to their list to be developed, there’s no denying that their creative formula is a checklist of animated classics to remake. Perhaps that might be one of the reasons why this film is getting so much hate. Maybe people have become so sick of these Disney remakes that they grow more apprehensive with each new retelling, even if one might actually be good.
Regardless, I personally found ‘Pinnochio’ to be not only a great live-action remake, but one of the best Disney remakes of recent memory. Of course, there is that feeling in the back of your head that makes you want to go back and watch the original. The 1940 film is arguably the greatest animated Disney classic of all time. However, that feeling probably would not have been rekindled if I did not appreciate this film.
Cast: Tom Hanks, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Cynthia Erivo, Jaquita Ta’le
Written by: Chris Weitz, Robert Zemeckis, Carlo Collodi (based on the book by)
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
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Nader Chamas is an aspiring television writer who seeks to fuse thought provoking progressive ideals into the films, shows, and stories that he loves. Having graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Screenwriting, Nader seeks to use his writing to advance causes that do not get enough attention or input across mainstream media. Like most, Nader has his own share of his favorite franchises and stories across pop culture. However, he seeks to contribute timely and relevant topics into these stories as well as in his own original material. This is why Nader’s analysis of popular films and tv shows matches The Hollywood Insider’s practice of discussing entertainment from a socially cognizant and critical perspective.