“Pinocchio” (2022) is Available Now on Disney+. Despite how significant “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” was to animation, I prefer Disney’s sophomore attempt with “Pinocchio” as the film that finally defined Disney. Compared to “Snow White,” “Pinocchio” makes improvements on the characters, musical numbers, set design, and especially the story. “Pinocchio” was the film that made Walt Disney Animation a legitimate figure of Hollywood and established that their debut film was far from beginner’s luck: “The Lion King” of its time. But just like “The Lion King,” modern-day Disney doesn’t really care about the sanctity of “Pinocchio.” Instead, they actively choose to skin the nostalgia off of the film and wear it over something disgustingly different, and from this botched surgery, we get the 2022 live-action remake of the titular wooden boy.
The film follows a similar story to the original. Jiminy Cricket (Joseph-Gordon Levitt) is a drifter who drops in on a clock shop owned by Geppetto (Tom Hanks). As we are introduced to them, Geppetto is doing finishing touches on a marionette puppet that he decides to call Pinocchio. Before he goes to bed, Geppetto wishes to a blue star that his puppet will become a real boy. That star happens to be the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Ervino), who grants that wish and turns Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) into a living wooden boy. From that, Jiminy is hired as Pinocchio’s conscience, and they now have to trek the dangerous world that includes the conman fox Honest John (Keegan-Michael Key), the greedy ringleader Stromboli (Luke Evans), the childish tourist trap Pleasure Island, and behemoth whale Monstro.
Another similar thing about “Pinocchio” and “The Lion King” is that their remakes are tied for one of the worst films to be ever made in the entire history of cinema. I cannot find any joy in this film, even as a guilty pleasure. I find nothing but pure unadulterated nihilism, like I did from “The Lion King” (2019).
I have a love-hate relationship with Robert Zemeckis. On one hand, he’s the director that made stellar blockbuster films like “Back to the Future” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” moving masterpieces like “Contact” and “Castaway,” as well as some projects that came from totally out of left field, like “The Polar Express” and “Welcome to Marwen.” On the other hand, there’s “Pinocchio.” The film, for the worse, neuters all of Zemeckis’ dynamic directorial style, with most of his frames in extreme-wide master shots that seem so detached to the characters and lack an emphasis on the delightful and cartoonish appeal that the original pulled off. This film feels wrong from a man who is often described as an apprentice of Steven Spielberg.
The only noticeable aspect of Zemeckis that is found within this sterile film is the obviously bad visual effects. Sometimes it can be great, like in “Forrest Gump,” “Contact,” and even most recently 2015’s “The Walk.” However, Zemeckis is also responsible for his hand in uncanny valley-like motion capture-based films such as “Welcome to Marwen.” Visually speaking, this film makes “The Polar Express” look like “Avatar” — just a massive drug-induced fever dream that makes the scene where Lampwick becomes a literal jackass feel underwhelming. All the VFX shots are equally offensive — I could talk about that alone all day and night — but all I’ll say here is that the froth on the root beers is distractingly fake.
The overabundant CGI that replaces practical sets makes the real-life Tom Hanks stick out like a sore thumb. Hanks trying to perform to someone or something that obviously isn’t there makes each scene feel awkward and as wooden as the son that is also not actually on set with him. Benjamin Evan Ainsworth sounds very uncomfortable in his voice acting, as he seems to deliver his dialogue as if he were being threatened with the prospect of being turned into an actual wooden boy. Joseph Gordon-Levitt falls flat at being a loveable and innocent sidekick, and his attempt to sound like the original cricket sounds like Pennywise doing a voice-over in a child’s closet.
The 600-800 word limit placed on all articles in the Campus Times doesn’t allow me to fully explain everything that I find artistically offensive and grotesque with this remake. These main points should really tell you how I feel about this travesty. I watched the movie on my phone, and when the film ended, I saw the disgusted face I made from this experience mirrored on the darkened screen.
The main conclusion I have from this film is: I want to step on Jiminy Cricket. His design is so horrifying.