Where I Watched it: Disney Plus
Audio Description Provided By: Deluxe
Narrated By: Laura Post
If we are being really honest about these Disney live action remakes, the ones that work seem to be the ones that take a risk and offer something brand new. Something other than just a beat for beat remake, but instead try and show us something we didn’t get to see in the animated version. They also rely heavily on your nostalgic connection to the original piece, casting, and direction.
Despite the fact that many critics would dump all the remakes, there’s an argument to be made for what Maleficent managed to do. It really was the first live action remake from Disney that found a brand new way to tell the story, from the villains perspective, and make Maleficent relatable. the animated Sleeping Beauty never bothered with this, so Maleficent ends up really being a complimentary piece to those who love the original animation. It’s sequel? Not so much. Cruella sought to take the same origin story format, which was smart since we already had the Glenn Blose version from the 90’s.
Then, you can argue that Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland has its own charm, because it’s Tim Burton. He took the source material, and he made his own absolutely bonkers remake. The sequel isn’t as good, but it’s not nearly as bad as some make it out to be. It’s easy to write those off as just another film where johnny Depp is eccentric under Burton’s command, but doing so ignores the wonderful performance from Mia Wasikowska.
Then we land on Pinocchio. When this was first announced, the only thing that had me excited was the casting of Tom Hanks. I’d be hard pressed to find a better “on paper” casting for a 2022 remake. But putting Robert Zemeckis behind the directors chair became a problem.
The problem with Pinocchio is that it recognizes that it can’t just copy the animated version beat for beat, but it doesn’t quite know what to cut and what to keep. It tries to add things, but instead of offering us a new and fresh take, it just comes across as a padded runtime. Perhaps, a Gepetto film would have been more effective, making Pinocchio a secondary character in his own story, and fully utilizing Hanks, instead of relegating him to the background. Seeing this story through a new lens would have given it reason to exist. As is, this is one that will likely end up killing the chances of another remake.
And it’s not that they should, or should not be remade, but you have to have a reason to do so. Waiting 82 years to remake a Disney classic needs to come with inspiration, rather than a green light. That’s all that happened here,a project was greenlit, people were hired, and this incredibly mediocre take was released.
Not for nothing, but i hated Roberto Benigni’s Pinocchio from 2002. At least it had made a clear choice to tell a version of this tale in its own way. It was terrible and didn’t work, and ultimately seeing a grown ass man as a child was bizarre, but at least there was some form of artistic interpretation.
Here, Zemeckis interprets the need for Pinocchio to have less of the Blue Fiary, despite his bold and beautiful casting choice of Cynthia erivo. Zemeckis is a director who has several fantastic titles under his belt, but he’s a chameleon. He doesn’t really have this specific vibe, he’s just a great director. Between Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back To The Future, and Cast Away, there’s a lot of solid direction, but wildly different films.
Before i tell you what this film could have been, i do want to mention that Joseph Gordon Levitt is fantastic. Even when Mr. Cricket is given soulless dialogue, JGL sounds just like the original voice. Who knew? It’s like the original Jiminy is here with us, but somehow updated. It will go on to be a thankless voice over performance, but he really tries to save this film, as does Ms. Erivo in the singular scene she’s in. Also, Hanks makes an excellent eccentric mumbling Gepetto, now with the additional backstory of a dead family and his drive to make a puppet that resembles his dead son.
Just like the pairing of Tim Burton with Alice in Wonderland proved so successful, if they weren’t going to change the perspective like with Maleficent or Cruella, they perhaps could ahve at least invited someone to the table whose vision could have really taken this to a whole different place. I would have loved to see this remake taken on by Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, or even Eli Roth (who tried his hand at family friendly fare with The house With A Clock On It’s Walls). Change it up. Don’t just regurgitate a soulless version of the original.
This film, its fans, and its cast deserved better.
Final Grade: C-