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Pinocchio

**
2022

‘…perhaps little kids don’t mind almost every element being a downgrade on the 1940’s film, but adults certainly will…’

In the week when the Cineworld and Regal chains filed for bankruptcy, putting a large swathe of the UK and UK cinema chains under notice to potentially close, Disney dropping a live-action remake of Pinocchio on its streaming service feels like adding insult to injury. Having released planned cinema releases Soul, Luca and Turning Red direct to their streaming channel, it feels like Disney are deliberately putting the boot into the idea of being a cinema provider at all, and Covid-19 restrictions are no longer an excuse they can use for not getting behind their product. Of course, this might be because their reboot of the tale of a woodcarver who creates his own son was a wooden nickel in the first place, but that didn’t stop similarly clonky versions of The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast being massive hits.

Taking inspiration from Carlo Collidi’s 1883 book, but more directly lifting big chunks of the beloved 1940 animation, this weird and not wonderful film is directed by Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks stars as Geppetto. The two men worked on Forrest Gump, Castaway and erm, The Polar Express, and Hanks certainly anchors the scenes that he’s in with genuine charm. But the figure of Pinocchio, voiced by Benjamin Evan Aisworth, is curiously unfinished, even for a half-cut wooden puppet; his painted on, soulless eyes are distressing to look at, and the wired-looking companion Figaro the Cat is one of several major downgrades on the cartoon version. The story is the same old; lonely Geppetto makes his own boy Pinocchio, who has ambitions but no conscience and gets seduced away from the idea of studying. The little wooden boy falls in with a rough crowd, but eventually he and Gepetto escape from the attentions on Monstero the Whale.

This 2022 Pinocchio, the first of two, does score a few minor wins; Keegan-Michael Key makes a fantastic Honest John, and his duet with silent cat Gideon of Hi-Diddle-De -Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me) is the one moment of this film that really hits a mark. But other treasured songs like Give A Little Whistle are dropped in favour of four bland new originals, the animation and script both feel unfinished, the ending is revised unsuccessfully, and the whole half-cooked production reeks of Covid-era mis-management. Perhaps little kids don’t mind almost every element being a downgrade on the 1940’s film, but adults certainly will; elements like the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) and Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon Levitt) are designed to throw-back to their originals but don’t make much sense in this benighted incarnation.

A throwaway gag about what other names Geppetto might have given Pinocchio, including ‘Chris Pine’, is the kind of anachonism that kills this dead; what fairytale universe contains Pinocchio AND Chris Pine? Is this movie for the ages, or just an of-the moment variety show for Sept 2022? By doubling down on streaming at a time when the box-office is deserted, Disney is playing a major part in destroying the eco-system that sustained its audience for eighty years, as this misbegotten project would probably have cleaned up if properly released to theatres. But the politics of revenge seems stronger than any survival instincts in America’s race to the bottom, and if Disney want to drain the cash from cinema to rebrand themselves as an exclusive tv company, that’s their business. This version of Pinocchio feels like a rushed, single-use Xmas tv movie, and no more real that the fake-it-till-you-remake it puppet-boy we get here.

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  1. I don’t think the world was demanding this be made, but my point is if it engages and captures a new audience/generation with the story of Pinocchio I guess that’s something. I know Disney is trying to cash in over and over again on any property they have a hand in, but I’ll allow this a pass if only because it might be enjoyable for those who’ve never seen the original or have no prior experience with the story.

    • That is fair, and I’d agree that if you’re under 12, you may well be satisfied by this film. It’s a story which has worked for generations, and some elements of this reboot, Hanks, Key, the old songs, still work. It’s no worse than their other live-action reboots. But we’re old enough to feel that there must be some new stories to be told, rather than just a fresh edit due to current fashions…

  2. There seems to be 2 subjects here, demise of theaters and Pinocchio. To the first subject, the issue seems to be dwindling gathering of folks with a like desire…gone are the circuses and viewers in old time form, gone are most carnies, and many outdoor events. This means going…gone is the energy from crowds, the sharing of joyful noises, and the awe of feeling positive attributes of being human… or is it still there but in other, virtual 2-dimensional forms? Was it ever the show that drew us together or something else, something that’s changed? Do we need to re-initiate Gen Z and Gen zero?
    Re PIN, not fond of cartoons, so no…however decades ago a taxi driver from N Ireland went above and beyond. I learned in our travels he collected wood puppets. Next time I went to Florence, I visited puppet shop associated with Colledi, author of PIN and bought him a wonderfully carved and adorned puppet. I also reread original book, intended in mid 1800s to unite next Gen kids and encourage them to get an education. During a time when Italy was fledging nation, with duchies that spoke their own dialects and had own rules, people were hungry and sad. Though he never married or had kids, he inspired kids to step up. Let nobody pull your strings… we need a modern version of PIN, though it could start like his story did “Once upon a time, there was a magical woodie, with a trickster spirit inside begging to be released…” or we could rework the disappointing ‘3K years of Yearning’, and incorporate some smashing bits from Velveteen Rabbit and Little Prince, and carve a branch from Chris Robins 1000 acre woods? What do you think?

    • Yes please, get this made! A trickster spirit is good, that kind of notion is sadly missing here. The Pinocchio spirit worked better in the 2021 film, and there’s a darkness to develop that never gets a shot in this new version; it’s just to old cartoon but ugly, and with worse songs. Maybe a story about puppets would be better told with puppets?

      While I’m concerned by Disney’s smashing the system that sustains them, I do think that cinema, theatre and live music will survive. But it’s a run deal if there’s little product launched for two years, and when we restart, there’s hardly any product to show. If Disney find streaming more profitable, fine, but it leave cinema open to new voices and that won’t be bad. Looks like there will be a restructured debt deal for Regal-Cineworld, and it’s worth noting that they had mega-debt before the pandemic. What we saw over the summer was that people still love going to the cinema, but it’s no mindless habit and the films need to be good. What is shocking is the dearth of big name product coming up…. What was 3k Years of Longing like? I’m clinically allergic to Tilda Swinton

      • Sadly, not here, and I plead guilty with excuses, only went a few times this year… theaters were at best 1/3 to 1/2 filled for both matinees and evening shows (per my neighbor, bro, others). I have hounds and rescue hounds that can’t be abandoned for long. I have big TVs and sound system. I’m too easily annoyed by people talking, getting up, using cell phones in theater. I suspect something new will develop, not sure what…movie viewing pods, more outdoor movies (3 revived drive in theaters in TN), or seasonal ticket holders, or…? Another challenge in 21stc seems to be sheer # of entertainment options, and then there’s MAYA formula.
        This version of PIN doesn’t sound promising. RE Disney, your info is insightful. Inside the oversized, painted head that’s Disney, there’s the loss of privilege in FL for rightly supporting causes IMO not on FL Gov agenda… the massive firing or shuffling of staff and execs, the outrageous price gouging, PR issues, and perhaps lack of future vision? Few are ‘imaging’ mega trends for global entertainment industry (for 8-9 B people). It will survive; it will continue to be more virtual, leaning towards interactive multiverses…I see holographic entertainment being available sooner than we think…teleports, hello Westworld? There will also be M’s of old, less mobile people. Dare I say we may even see a load of politicians walking around by 2025 with 7 inch noses that would make Cyrano’s proboscis pale in comparison — after someone invents and delivers a truth serum??? Chuckles

        • The tech may change, but people, particularly young people, still want to go somewhere, and that was true a century ago, and is still true now. It’s only a couple of years ago that Disney were unprecedented box-office champs, so I do see something slightly sinister about them not pulling their weight when the rest of us are trying to pull together. Being at odds with the DeSantis/Cruz school of non-thought is giving them image problems, and the drive towards wine was seems to be losing rather than gaining traction. The box office of cinema this year was only 20 percent down on pre-pandemic levels a few weeks ago, so there’s no excuse for shutting up shop now. But yes, bring on the holograms! Book me up for Futureworld! I’m ready when you are…

          Your last point raises a smile. Why do we push stories like Pinocchio to kids and then lead them to a society where lying pays? It’s funny to think that we once thought the net would create clarity and connection, but instead it provides the unscrupulous with every opportunity to obscure and cover tracks. Spoiler alert: the big change in this new version is the blue fairy does not come back and Pinocchio does not get transformed into a real boy. I’m not sure how this changes anything for the better, but the bottom line is that the magic of cinema, storytelling and communication only goes away if we let it…and my nose is still the same length as when I started this rant…

        • I always sit at the front so I’m not annoyed by people. I go to the cinema to see a screen not the tops of other people’s heads. Hope this isn’t the death knell of cinema otherwise I won’t know what to do with my mondays.

      • Ditto for me re Tilda! Bad sign when u long for something to be over… despite fetching premise and actor; perhaps prejudiced because I adore movies with a narrator. Too much playing out of stories (awkwardly) in this case. If I recall, movie was based on story by A. S. Byatt, fav author of mine. Apologies for running my mouth fingers…

        • I’ve got a powerful anecdote about Swinton, a church, and some haggis flavour crisps which I’m saving up for whenever I actually see this. Based on your account, I may be keeping that genie in a bottle for a while yet…

  3. Too bad. My friend mentioned this one and we thought it might be fun to take her kids. Didn’t realize it wasn’t going to be in cinemas. Sounds like we might have dodged a bullet. If we have to watch it at home, think I’ll finally get around to “Frozen” instead…

  4. So Disney’s plan is to go exclusive. That actually makes sense since they’re such control freaks about their IP’s and control re-releases of beloved cartoons like Hitler. It also was foreshadowed by all the MCU tv shows. We’ll know things have gone critical when they release a Star Wars or MCU movie only to streaming.
    Then you can really lament the end of cinema.

    Feel free to ignore me, I’m just here in the corner fiddling away 😉

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