Review by Dan Skip Allen
Pinocchio is one of Disney's hallmark IPs, going all the way back to 1940 when the animated film was released to the masses. Ever since, it has continued life on television, VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray. In the meantime, some other films about this wooden boy who wanted to be real came out, but none by Disney. Two more movies about this little wooden boy are coming out this year. The first is from Academy Award-winning world-renowned filmmaker Robert Zemeckis and goes straight to Disney+.
Similar to the original animated film, this new one starts with Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon Levitt) saying he has a story to tell. He introduces himself as he walks to Gepetto's (Tom Hanks) workshop. We see him working on his little wooden boy in his workshop. As he falls asleep, he wishes that Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), the name he gave his boy because he's made from pine, would turn into a real boy. During the night, a blue fairy (Cynthia Erivo) comes and grants his wish. That's just the beginning of the amazing story.
Zemeckis pretty much takes the original animated film and turns it into a live-action version of this popular tale. All the main characters from the original Disney film are present in this reboot. Along the way, there are a few new ones as well. Pinocchio gets into his share of trouble and meets some crazy, wacky, interesting characters like Honest John (Keegan Michael Key), Stromboli (Guiseppe Battiston), and The Coachman (Luke Evans). All these characters help him develop a conscience, and he starts to learn right from wrong, which every boy needs to learn as far as I'm concerned.
Zemeckis has had his fair share of CGI films in the past. He all but invented motion capture photography with films like The Polar Express (also starring Tom Hanks) and A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey, so he knows his way around this technology. The motion capture in this film is a little wooden — but I think that was on purpose. The animation had to look similar to the old animated film yet different from the other Pinocchio films not to confuse audiences.
This new addition to the Pinocchio lore is a fun ride. It's nothing special, but it's a reboot of an eighty-year-old film, itself based on a book from 1883. It's not going to be an awards contender. The perfect place for this film is on Disney+, where older audiences can re-enjoy this classic tale of a little wooden boy trying to become a real boy, and younger children can enjoy this version of the story for the first time. It has all the moments I remember as a kid, including the songs and other memorable moments that Disney is known for.
Pinocchio was never going to be the original film, but with the help of Zemeckis, the actors, and the animators, it is a good film perfectly placed on Disney+. It still has some of the magic I remembered as a kid, including the famous songs Pinocchio is known for, composed brilliantly by Alan Silvestri. The story of a boy learning right from wrong and love and compassion will always be a message kids can learn to adapt from watching this film, if not the original animated film from 1940. I say give it a chance. You never know — they might like it.
Pinocchio is now streaming on Disney+.