In Robert Zemeckis’ version of the classic Disney tale “Pinocchio”, Joseph Gordon-Levitt does a fantastic job voicing Jiminy Cricket. His vocal styling is near to that of Cliff Edwards (the singer who was the voice of the beloved character in the 1940 original). Gordon-Levitt’s performance is quite impressive, radiating life and personality, two of many positive traits this terrible film is lacking.
Zemeckis and Chris Weitz wrote this adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s “The Adventures of Pinocchio” and did the author no favors. While staying somewhat faithful to the source material, the (not so) great irony of this film is that it is completely lifeless, too often bordering on insulting.
The screenplay is full of out of place and unnecessary moments of modern-day humor and Pop Culture jabs that bomb hard.
Once character speaks of “influencers”, Chris Pine is name dropped, Jiminy Cricket gripes about infrastructure problems, and don’t we all want to see an extended scene of Pinocchio hovering over a pile of horse dung, taking in the smell over and over?
What an affront to Collodi’s beautiful tale. For shame Mr. Zemeckis.
Don Burgess’s cinematography (working in tandem with the production design and art direction) gives the entire picture a grim and lifeless aura that drains it of any joy, while longtime Zemekis collaborator Alan Silvestri’s score scatters the messy music queues around as if they were puzzle pieces spilled onto the floor.
The visual compositions are dreadfully dull, as is the script and Zemeckis’ direction. So where does this leave the actors?
Tom Hanks continues his downward spiral as the clockmaker Geppetto. His performance as Colonel Tom Parker in this year’s “Elvis” was unintentionally hilarious. His turn as Pinocchio’s father is embarrassingly goofy. Flailing around the sets and emoting as if he were one of the characters in Christopher Guest’s “Waiting for Guffman”, the actor truly hams it up.
While Hanks could never be confused for Marlon Brando, I never imagined he could be awful. 2022 has proven to be the year where America’s beloved Tom Hanks fell from grace with his two worst performances.
Cynthia Erivo is always a welcome presence. She does okay here as the Blue Fairy but has nothing to work with besides the fact that it is now her character who gets to sing “When You Wish Upon a Star”. Her talents are tremendous, and she does well with the song, but I question the necessity of not letting ol’ Jiminy perform it.
There was always something comforting in having Jiminy Cricket sing to Pinocchio. After all, he is the boy’s conscience and the song’s message is the story’s soul. Erivo (as good as she is) comes in, “Bibbity Bobbity Boo’s” it, and leaves the film, flattening the emotions of the moment.
In keeping with the original story, on the way to his first day of school, Pinocchio runs into the villainous fox “Honest” John. Keegan-Michael Key voices the character with zest but is saddled with dumb dialogue that stifles his performance.
Lorraine Bracco is equally wasted as a seagull named Sofia. Her role has a small purpose, but the actress isn’t given any memorable lines nor does she do much with what little she has.
Luke Evans fares far worse (in the film’s worst sequence) as The Coachman, a man who kidnaps children and takes them to a nasty carnival called Pleasure Island.
In this massively overloaded sequence, children are taught to being mean and destructive. As the director attacks our senses (and our patience), poor Pinocchio is forced to sip something resembling grog as he watches hundreds of real children destroy beautiful clocks. What fun. Thanks a lot, Zemeckis.
As the titular wooden boy, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth does an affable job, but he too becomes a victim of the dull production.
The morals held within Collodi’s story remain intact but become buried under the rubble of Zemeckis’ over-direction. Many classic moments are casualties (especially Pinocchio’s nose growing when he lies), each one playing like an afterthought while presented as empty gestures.
The combination of live-action elements and three-dimensional CG animation does nothing for this story. Starting with his popular “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” In 1988, Zemeckis seems to have a fetish for this kind of filmmaking. “Pinocchio” is not only the least of the director’s forays into this type of picture, but also his absolute worst film.
It saddens me that a studio once so full of ideas is now spending much of their time and money on comic book movies and live-action retreads of their classic animated treasures.
Be the results good or bad, this is a waste of time and talent for the mighty studio.
Coming later this year (for a different studio) is Guillermo Del Toro’s version of the tale. His is to be a darker animated take with a creepier edge. Will this madness never stop?
Robert Zemeckis’ PG-rated “Pinocchio” is an ugly, joyless, and dreadful film and a full-on insult to its source material.
Quite simply, the magic is gone.
Written by Robert Zemekis and Chris Weitz
Directed by Robert Zemekis
Starring Tom Hanks, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Luke Evans, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Cynthia Erivo, Keegan-Michael Key, Lorraine Bracco
PG, 105 Minutes, Walt Disney Pictures