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A live-action remake of Disney’s 1940 animated classic offers a slightly new twist on the story of a wooden marionette brought to life by a magical Blue Fairy, who sends him on a journey to become fully human by exemplifying bravery, truthfulness, and selflessness.
Tom Hanks stars as Geppetto the Italian woodcarver who makes Pinocchio. Cynthia Erivo (Tony winner for The Color Purple and Oscar nominee for Harriet) plays the Blue Fairy. Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele) is Honest John the Fox. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt (The Dark Knight Rises) is the voice of Jiminy Cricket.
There is always some hesitation for me when it comes to watching live-action remakes, but this is the story about a puppet brought to life, and what it takes to become “human.” It’s perhaps more remarkable that the animated version of Pinocchio hasn’t been brought to life with live actors before.
Of course, the story also requires CGI characters, and blending the physical world and its people together with these characters is no small task. But this retelling was put in the hands of the legendary director Robert Zemeckis, who created the cult classic Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the more recent Polar Express. The cinematic combination of the real and imagined, brought to life by big talents including Tom Hanks and Cynthia Erivo, made this film something magical for me.
Let me start by saying Tom Hanks, as Geppetto, was amazing. I don’t know of many actors who can channel the authenticity of both passion and true love, but Hanks is someone who can pull on the heartstrings. From his first scene, he melts your heart with his desire for a son. His screen time is shorter than expected, but he still left an impact.
Cynthia Erivo’s angelic voice and enchanting on-screen presence matched exactly what Blue Fairy should be, although her appearance is also too brief, and young actress Kyanne Lamaya, who plays dancer and ventriloquist Fabiana, will capture your attention with her singing solo. She is someone you hope to see more of.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jiminy Cricket was a surprise, as he altered his voice so much that it was unrecognizable. But his Jiminy stays true to the original and keeps the character strict in his pursuit to be Pinocchio’s conscience.
And no matter what character Keegan-Micheal Key plays, he always brings his charismatic flare to the screen. You’ll enjoy his musical number as Honest John and his competitive spirit to win Pinocchio over.
There are a few times the CGI seemed a little off, and you might notice it with the large-scale characters. But most of the characters manage to feel authentic.
The one issue I had with the film was the voice of Pinocchio. During most of the story, his voice sounded generic and did not match the tone of the rest of the film. It might have been intentional, as he is still learning to come alive and master language. But it distracts, and I remember actor Benjamin Evan Ainsworth having more life to him in Haunting of Bly Manor.
What helps is that there is a comedic awareness of some of the unrealistic events in the film, which takes time to poke fun at. And regardless, this Pinocchio brings an updated blend of Disney magic and adventure that can delight a grown-up.
A new twist to one of Disney’s most iconic classics, the story about a puppet who becomes “human” is finally brought to live-action life in this version of Pinocchio. The film’s approach to the moral of the story is a little different than you remember, but you could argue it is more realistic, and this one you will want to share with the younger generations.
While it’s rated PG, this one is intended as an all-in-the-family watch, with important age-old lessons to be learned. But you might enjoy watching this one on your own for the nostalgia, the stars, and the magical experience of seeing it all come alive, Disney 2022 style.
The director, Robert Zemeckis, is also known for Back to the Future trilogy and Romancing the Stone. Watch out for some Easter eggs that pay tribute to other classic Disney films.