Whilst most of Disney’s live action remakes have received commercial success, they have all failed to reach the same level of highs that their animation origins once did. These rehashes are either a complete rip of the original creators or so far removed from them that it lacks the spirit or magic which once made these stories generational. Finding a balance between the two is one of the things that Disney is failing to achieve, and Pinocchio is the latest to fall victim of this tiring formula.
The story of Pinocchio is one we’ve seen adapted many times throughout the years including two releases this year (with the other being directed by Guillermo del Toro, set to release on Netflix at the end of the year). It’s the story of a wooden puppet magically being brought to life, without the literal and metaphorical strings that hold the boy down and making that transition into being a ‘real boy’. Pinocchio has remained a staple of the Disney brand since being released in 1940 so comes as no surprise that it was added to the slate of live-action remakes.
It would seem they wished upon a star by uniting director Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks, but sadly their connection here doesn’t feel as rich or memorable as their shared work on Forrest Gump (1994) and Cast Away (2000). Instead, Pinocchio feels soulless, dull and perhaps worst of all rather pointless. Hanks does a lot of work as the woodcarver Geppetto, being one of few people to not reprise digital roles. But I’d also be lying if I said that Benjamin Evan Ainsworth doesn’t work as Pinocchio. But even the relationship between not only these two but many of the characters that crosses Pinocchio’s path just feels flat.
The biggest crime this film commits though is with its visual effects department. This is a problem we’ve been seeing across all of Disney’s properties as of late, with Marvel, Star Wars and even their original stories seemingly wavering in its visual dominance due to overwhelming disruption from an ever-growing Disney brand. There are entire sequences here that look like visual eye sores. So many memorable moments that in comparison to the original just appear bland or lifeless.
These remakes haven’t provided much more than disappointing results, but they usually make an effort to revive the magic of its source by providing a fresh take on these tales for the next generation. Zemeckis’ Pinocchio however is void of everything that made it such a household classic for many years after its release. The strings from high up the production ladder of Disney are holding these projects down, and it’s only a matter of time before audience anticipation will be forever lost.