New from Peter Spedale on Be Movie See Movie: Movie Review: Robert Zemeckis’s Pinocchio

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What happened? Disney took 3 things I usually love: Pinocchio, Tom Hanks, and director Robert Zemeckis, and somehow combined them into this unholy concoction that’s clearly a soulless live action cash grab. If just need that Pinocchio itched scratched, just watch the brilliant 1940 one on Disney Plus, or wait to watch Guillermo Del Toro’s probably more adult one later this year, and run as far away from this movie as much as possible, because watching it will put you on Donkey Island.

Essentially a near plot for plot remake of the 1940 Disney movie, we open on Geppetto (Hanks), a wood carver who never had a child of his own. After wishing upon a star, The Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) brings to life Geppetto’s puppet Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth). After assigning Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) as Pinocchio’s conscience, the fairy tells Pinocchio he can be a real boy if he’s brave, truthful, and unselfish. And so this CGI wooden boy goes on all sorts of adventures that lead him to the theater, an island of fun, and a terror in the ocean.

Let’s quickly move on here. All the beats of the story are 95% the same, just with live action CGI, so you know, easy to follow but pointless. Zemeckis takes that extra 5% and goes down pointless plot holes and chase sequences that have nothing to do with anything, and are mostly just an excuse for him to show off his technical prowess with CGI. Instead, they just show Zemeckis, the Forrest Gump, Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? guy, has lost his storytelling magic. Tom Hanks must have gotten bored during the pandemic, and amused himself with funny accents, because his post pandemic acting choices have been really strange and silly with crazy costumes. But the worst sin of this Pinocchio is that it undercuts all of the truly wonderful lessons of the 1940 original. In this movie, Pinocchio learns that lying helps you out of a jam, giving into peer pressure is better than standing up for yourself, and school is filled with bigots. What kind of horrible messaging is that? Based on how the movie ends, it’s clear Zemeckis had an end in mind and ham-fisted the story to fit it, but at the expense of all the power of the original? Shame on you sir!

So this Pinocchio sucks, removing the soul of a wooden boy and turning it back into CGI wood. And what happened to Zemeckis, seriously? After making a bunch of movie classics, he’s been wallowing in crap for sometime now, including the vile Welcome to Marwen. Just please, Robert, stop taking Tom Hanks down with you? I’d like to remember America’s dad fondly and not some caricature of crappy accented stereotypes. And I know that CGI Wall E is staring you right in the face, but leave that alone too please? You’re giving Chicago a bad name!

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