The latest addition to the ever-growing collection of live action remakes is Disney Plus’ “Pinocchio,” directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring the talented Tom Hanks and Joseph Gordon Levitt. Live action retellings toe a fragile line, either capturing the hearts of many or butchering a beloved classic. Unfortunately, “Pinocchio” achieves the latter.
It’s a treacherous risk attempting to put a unique spin on a worldwide moral favorite. Zemeckis’ brave attempt lacks originality and even strays away from the magic of 1940’s animated feature. The basic plot is essentially the same, with a lonely Geppetto wishing for a son, prompting a fairy to fulfill his wish as she brings a puppet, Pinocchio, to life. Pinocchio’s innocence and desire to become a real boy invites a wild adventure across town. He encounters a tricky puppet master and the enticing entrapment of Pleasure Island, eventually reuniting him with Geppeto after a formidable romp with Monstro the whale.
While the film follows the original plot, it lacks the beauty and depth of Carlo Corrodi’s original story. In the attempt to bring to life Pinocchio’s character and drive the plot along, the audience misses out on Geppetto’s backstory. Brief scenes provide a weak explanation of the importance of the clocks and the loss of his wife and child. The film even uses the clocks to blatantly shove Disney references into the audience’s face, a shot of Woody from “Toy Story,” “Maleficent,” and even Donald Duck. We are reintroduced to the classic song, “Wish Upon a Star,” but it’s a short snippet, downplaying its allure.
Out of the gate, Pinocchio is essentially perfect, no longer personifying a mischievous boy that learns from his mistakes. He learns lessons but they seem forced and intentional. Jiminy, a pivotal character, is present but functions more as comic relief than as a source of wisdom. Some scenes are even added that mock the story’s spirit, especially the scene where Pinocchio discovers and investigates a pile of crap in the street, humorous but a little tacky. Disney’s lazy attempt to profit from an established story once again fails miserably.
In recent years, Disney has made multiple attempts to reintroduce well known favorites as live action tales. It has sparked major controversy between audiences; some see it as a wonderful addition to Disney’s repertoire. They are enchanted, reliving their childhood, some even experiencing it with their own children. Many view it as a creative effort that brings something new to the world while still maintaining the patent Disney magic. However, there is a large number of cynical viewers that find these remakes uninspiring and as ruining the magic of the classics. Some see it as lazy, reflecting on Disney’s reputation for making more money without having to spend time developing new ideas. These movies are also seen as a shameless attempt to incorporate star studded actors, case in point, Will Smith as the Genie in the live action “Aladdin.” Another prominent argument is that live action takes away from the genius of two-dimensional animation as it can’t compete with the magic that animation can create with characters and settings that live action is unable to effectively pull off.
In movies such as “The Lion King,” the CGI animals are missing their expressive faces as real-life animals can’t capture intense emotions. Their personalities are unknown to the audience, but are an essential part of the story. Sure, we can express wackiness and sarcasm vocally, but it deprives the power of non-verbal expression. This is true for Pinocchio, a bland puppet, and Jiminy looking like an actual cricket. This is just one example of how live action is a subpar representation of the original.
There are some positive aspects of the remakes, nostalgia being the central component. Adults lose the playful innocence and imagination that childhood brought, and these movies are a way to escape life. It can also be a way for children to reconnect with these classic animated films with their parents while simultaneously experiencing a new version conducive to their generation. Children might not be aware of the complexities that these remakes introduce, inviting a new generation into the world of Disney magic as they claim these new movies as their own.
Despite obtaining the title of inadequacy for some adult viewers, “Pinocchio” possesses a heartening message that can capture the hearts of many children enchanted by Disney tales. The competitive world of film and television makes it difficult for works to garner success. Disney has an advantage due to its established identity, allowing for instant popularity for any movie even though it may disappoint, or charm, die hard fans.