Berkreviews Pinocchio (2022)

Director Robert Zemeckis’s newest feature film is a “live” action adaptation of the Disney classic Pinocchio (2022). Like his last feature,  The Witches (2020), it’s not heading to theaters, but landing squarely on a streaming service – this time at Disney+, and that may be the best place for it. The Disney live-action adaptations, which are going for less and less “live” and more CG animation meshed with a few actors, have yet to prove necessary. For the most part, the animated counterparts have consistently been better, and the new versions are often opting to just recreate what was already done, leaving audiences pondering why’d they even bothered. Zemekis and writer Chris Weitz do make a few alterations to the original Disney classic from 1940, but ultimately attempt to stay true to the original in look and theme – simply opting to update the animation to 3D. 

Geppetto (Tom Hanks) is a woodcarver, and he creates a puppet he names Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth).  While going to sleep, he makes a wish for Pinocchio to become a real boy. While Geppetto rests with his CG cat and fish, the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) arrives and turns Pinocchio into a living puppet, with instructions on how he can become real. Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – our narrator – was initially an innocent bystander, but is recruited by the fairy to be Pinocchio’s conscious. 

Pinocchio is a functional fairy tale about the value of being honest and good, showing the punishments that can come from lying or acting like a jackass. Ainsworth gives a really solid voice performance as Pinocchio, and Keegan-Michael Key as “Honest” John is probably the second best overall. JGL is a favorite of mine, but his voice here feels like Mickey Mouse from a little further down south. It’s not bad, and he’s fully committed to the role – but it didn’t quite click. My biggest surprise was not loving Tom Hanks as Geppetto. Hanks is almost always a lock for me in any performance, but something just isn’t clicking here either. It could be that he is likely working alone with CG elements – or perhaps it is just the style of the character – but he wasn’t the highlight I’d expect him to be. 

It’s possible that I’m just not as connected to Pinocchio as others. I remember watching it as a kid, and I didn’t dislike it…but it was never my favorite Disney cartoon. At times, the plot feels only loosely connected, and it ultimately feels more like a series of short fables that Pinocchio must go through. As a child, those lessons and the way they are visualized may be enough to keep one engaged. For me, I felt like the movie dragged, and that one scene really didn’t lead into the next one as much as it should. The overarching element is that Pinocchio wants to be a real boy and please his father. The story flows from Pinocchio going to school, to being tricked into performing a puppet show, to being picked up and taken on a vacation, to the literal amusement park ride through Pleasuretown, to returning home, to going out on the ocean, to going into Monstro, and to going then home again…all feel loosely connected or forced. 

Pinocchio is about what I would expect at this point from Zemeckis and streaming services. It’s solid and does what it sets out to do – but it doesn’t feel essential. Fans of the animated movie may have a few complaints about some changes, and a few characters that are introduced (who ultimately add no significant elements). It didn’t do much for me, but I also don’t have any significant complaints. Pinocchio earns the Decent Watch rating.

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