Comparing the lifeless thing made inexplicably brought to life that is Disney’s Pinocchio (2022) to its titular subject is all too easy—but fuck if it isn’t apt. Watching only the first ten minutes of this so-called “live-action” remake, it already becomes evident just how far Robert Zemeckis has fallen since so wonderfully fusing animation and actors decades ago in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (don’t worry; he reminds you of this almost immediately with a winking Roger and Jessica Rabbit cuckoo clock). Pinocchio’s first scene alone is such a crass non-effort that it begs you to not waste Disney+’s bandwidth. So we didn’t. Here’s a review of just those first ten minutes.
The piece of shit opens on what looks like a video game but is apparently the movie. Jiminy Cricket, in the voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, narrates over his own terribly meta intro. Actually, “in the voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt” isn’t entirely accurate. It’s him doing an impression of this sort of flamboyant Southern voice of the original animated film. They could have just had Call Me Kat’s Leslie Jordan do the same thing for a fraction of the price, but sure. Now they have the JGL name. Everyone is going to be subscribing to Disney+ because the guy from 500 Days of Summer plays the bug.
Then we get Tom Hanks as Geppetto—and it should be fun that he’s doing an accent and going bigger than Big. He was so fun doing that in the likewise-dated remake of The Ladykillers! But it’s so painfully apparent he’s just walking around an empty, green room interacting with some tennis balls on C-stands. From Geppetto’s cat, to his bizarrely-sexualized fish (within this ten minutes, he does ask the hot fish whether it’s attracted to his wooden boy), to his home, it’s all so beholden to the original cartoon’s stylization—but instead of making it stylishly animated, the Beowulf and Polar Express director lazily dumps it into his beloved uncanny valley. It couldn’t be a more pointless effort. Typing “Disney’s Pinocchio realistic” into an AI would have given equivalently grotesque and just as artless results.
Then Angus Wright—perhaps better known as Angus from Peep Show—shows up, and it’s some real community theater shit. It is, at best, like when NBC similarly did Peter Pan live. Angus and Hanks are just hamming it up in this obvious void and it’s like there’s no one running the show at all.
Even the worst movies usually at least feel like something. You can see that choices—however ill-conceived—were made; that there was some however-misguided passion put into bringing a story to the screen. Pinocchio, to belabor the again-obvious metaphor, has such artificial life. It just is. Here’s this. A machine has been churning out pseudo-live-action versions of animated Disney classics, and here’s its latest output. It’s a sort of real boy.
We’ve already speculated that Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio would be the superior version of the story this year, but jeez, it would have to be—if nothing else, merely in having any vision or passion at all involved in its making.
But again, that’s just the first ten minutes. Maybe it gets good!