Pinocchio may not be everyone’s favorite classic Disney animated film – he’s often overlooked for The Lion King or The Little Mermaid – but critically he’s still one of the most celebrated. With director Robert Zemeckis at the helm and Tom Hanks in the lead, Pinocchio (opens in a new scene) is the latest Disney animated film to receive the live-action treatment, further exploring Geppetto’s backstory while softening the villains slightly. evil and constantly asking the question: what makes a “real guy”?
Zemeckis was tasked with balancing the latest version of this moral tale. The Forrest Gump director had to incorporate Disney’s key brands while bringing out the more cheerful and poignant components of the 1940 film, but still keeping his sinister roots in mind.
With Guillermo del Toro vowing to delve into the mysterious elements of the tale for his film, Disney’s live-action adaptation goes a fairly safe path into a messed up fairytale.
Disney + | Pinocchio – Available in Preview from today 8 September
How different is the film from the original Pinocchio?
Disney doesn’t just have a soft spot for Pinocchio; the Oscar-winning song from the movie “When You Wish Upon a Star” is synonymous with the brand. Suffice it to say that the live-action remake comes close enough to the animated original, with some major script updates from Zemeckis and Chris Weitz, including, to some extent, how the story ends.
Like Disney’s 2017 live-action Beauty and the Beast, the narrative, dialogue, set design and costumes, and even the shots, attempt to replicate the original. In Pinocchio, the narrative and physical aspect of most of the characters is almost the same, with a slightly more logical pace (although it is longer). Plus, four original songs by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard lighten things up a bit.
If Tom Hanks weren’t an incredible actor, these scenes might not have worked out.
Fortunately for longtime collaborator Zemeckis Hanks (Forrest Gump, Cast Away, The Polar Express), this new Pinocchio expands Geppetto’s backstory by providing context as to why this Italian wood carver creates a wooden boy in the first place. , what she really wants from a star and why exactly she has filled her house with elaborate (Disney-themed) cuckoo clocks. All of this makes room for Hanks to seek motivation for the relatively one-note character, and makes his signature look shine by bravely trying to sell us song lyrics. The new film ditched a couple of Geppetto’s older behaviors, such as smoking a pipe in bed and hiding a huge blunderbuss under his pillow, and also toned down the slapstick comedy, especially for sequences where Geppetto terrorizes his pets with the his new puppet.
The script adds Sofia the Seagull, a new character, as well as a completely new storyline with puppeteer Fabiana and her puppet, Sabina. Fabiana’s scenes are a sweet addition that allows Pinocchio to learn ethics and self-reliance from someone other than Jiminy. Notably, her character is part of the traveling puppet theater troupe run by Stromboli, a problematic character associated with a negative stereotypical representation of the Roma that was as questionable as it is here in the original film. It is unclear why no more efforts have been made to address this.
Best Actor: Keegan-Michael Key
As the dramatic con man Honest John, Keegan-Michael Key steals the show so skillfully it’s a crime how little time he’s given him. Bringing a wildly melodramatic energy from Ms. Darbus to this anthropomorphized fox actor. Picking up on the explosive lines of the already snappy original script while introducing modern influencer references and throwing a truly perfect Chris Pine joke, Key’s Honest John is the extraordinarily hilarious highlight of a film weighed down in morality conversations. In all the extravagant scams of him, along with his silent, Harpo Marx-like accomplice, Gideon, we forget for a second that they are shady as hell.
The script makes a change to the original plot to give Pinocchio a little more moral credit in the beginning. In the WWII era version, Pinocchio abandons Jiminy Cricket on his way to school and heads straight for fame and glory; this time, Pinocchio actually listens to Jiminy and tries to go to school, but is chased away by the teacher because he is not a “real child”, so he joins Honest John. So at least he tried.
What, exactly, is a “real guy”?
It’s an interesting time for Disney to release a film centered around the concept of what makes a “real guy,” according to a film released in the 1940s. To be successful, both the new and the original film state: “You have to show that you are brave, sincere and selfless.” These ground rules are set by the Blue Fairy, played here by the incredible Cynthia Erivo, who thankfully doesn’t waste a minute of her limited screen time. (And, yes, she sings.) It is these three key traits that the films declare the most important aspects of being a “good” person, learned by recognizing what is right and wrong, with the help of one’s conscience. The director makes a point on the “reality” of Pinocchio with an ambiguous ending, but it is up to them if this lands with the audience.
Disney’s Pinocchio is a moral parable that encourages kids to behave well, to ignore the world’s alleged “sinful” temptations and to tell the truth to keep their noses growing. But it’s also about atoning and being able to redeem yourself after some mistakes. At one point, when he is drowning in the hedonistic pressure of peers, Pinocchio utters the perfect line: “I don’t want to be an idiot, I want to be a real boy”. A good goal, in my opinion.