‘Pinocchio’: A cursed live action

New adaptation keeps similar charm to the original but misses several marks, leaves audiences disappointed

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Sophie Leung-Lieu

Pinocchio (2022) has been panned by multiple critics with many calling it an insult and asking Disney to stop making live action films all together.

Walt Disney Studios YouTube Channel

By Gaby Esquivel, McCallum High School

A new live-action Pinocchio movie was one of many projects released on Disney+ day, Sept. 8. Over the years, Disney has attempted to remake its original works to fit modern film trends, but to Disney fans, these remakes have consistently been disappointments.

The film’s plot is a replica of the original 1940s film with some minor changes involving character development. Like the original, it starts with Geppetto (played by Tom Hanks) adding the final touches to his puppet boy who he names Pinocchio (voiced by Ben Ainsworth). Motivated by the deaths of his wife and son, Geppetto wishes upon a star that Pinocchio could become a living boy, and the Blue Fairy (played by Cynthia Erivo), makes his wish come true. She appoints Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to help Pinocchio know the difference between good and bad.

But Cynthia Erivo’s talent was put to waste as the Blue Fairy. This first and most important scene she appears in did not do justice to her beautiful voice; she sings for less than a minute, cutting the magical moment short. The Blue Fairy’s secondary scene was supposed to serve the purpose of showing Pinocchio that everyone makes mistakes, but learning from them requires bravery, honesty and selflessness.

One of the movie’s few redeeming qualities is Tom Hanks’ acting. He masterfully conveys concern and desperation while looking for his lost son. At times, it’s easy to forget he’s only acting. Hanks is one of the exceptional actors of these years because he can go from playing an antagonist to a protagonist so efficiently. In Pinocchio, Geppetto swears to never sell his handmade clocks, crafted in memory of his wife. But when Pinocchio is kidnapped and sent to Pleasure Island, he decides to sell all of them to buy a boat and sets off to search for his son.

This film doesn’t feel like it was made to retell this timeless story; it feels like the people at Disney rushed into developing a new live action”

Classic songs from the original including “Give a Little Whistle” and “My Little Wooden Head” were cut and new songs were added like “The Coachman to Pleasure Island.”  The song was unnecessary and seems to have only been featured to show off the vocals of the Coachman (played by Luke Evans). Evans is a fine singer, but this song was unnecessary and should have been cut. The song “I’ve Got No Strings,” which came from the original, was charming and Ben Ainsworth’s time to shine when it came to vocals.

The only change from the original I appreciated was the bond between Jiminy and Pinocchio. It’s very captivating and reminiscent of siblinghood. In the original, Jiminy decides to abandon Pinocchio after he goes against his advice, but in the live-action, he never leaves Pinocchio and always looks after his well-being.

This film doesn’t feel like it was made to retell this timeless story; it feels like the people at Disney rushed into developing a new live-action in order to push out another movie and make money. Pinocchio’s design is perfect, but the lighting and CGI are distracting and pull you out of the story. Shots with little to no lighting make him look like a character from a bad video game. Pinocchio’s bad facial CGI is especially clear during his escape from Monstro. His shading and CGI look unfinished and bring more attention to how out of proportion Pinocchio looks next to Gepetto.  However, Pinocchio blends in better in shots with daylight such as the scene where he decides to look for his father, turning away the prospect of becoming a world-famous puppet.

The central message of this movie remains the same as the original, implying that it is never too late to start again, with Pinocchio learning about all the hardships life can put you through. This new ending is very confusing because it is so momentary. If you blink, you’ll miss it in a moment. Very subtly, Pinocchio does turn into a real boy, but as he retains the wood of a puppet, even Geppetto doesn’t seem to notice. This left me with a bad taste in my mouth. In the end, watching the original is a better option for the proper nostalgia and its unique and beautiful charm.

This story was originally published on The Shield Online on September 24, 2022.