Photo: ©2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Director(s): Robert Zemeckis

Writer(s): Robert Zemeckis and Chris Weitz

Cast: Tom Hanks, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cynthia Erivo, Keegan-Michael Key, Lorraine Bracco and Luke Evans

Reviewed by: Ian Evans on

Release Date(s)

Sep 8, 2022 - Disney+

Disney has a treasure trove of classic animated films that have stood the test of time and entertained audiences for generations. Of course, if you rewrite that sentence with a corporate flair, Disney has a goldmine of intellectual properties that can be extracted and re-imagined in order to facilitate new revenue streams to return value to shareholders. So that’s how we now have live-action remakes of The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, The Jungle Book and Aladdin. The latest Disney animated classic to be overhauled is Pinocchio and like many of the remakes before it, it creates mixed feelings.

Director Robert Zemeckis has the helm in this live-action/CGI hybrid that stars Tom Hanks as Geppetto, the sweet and gentle woodworker who spends his days making intricate and whimsical cuckoo clocks — many of which wink-and-nod references to other Disney IP – while in the company of his pet cat and goldfish. This time around, he’s been given a backstory that includes mourning for a dead son. When he builds a young boy marionette, a wish upon a star summons the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo), who brings the puppet to life. Eager to please his “dad”, Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) is told he can be a real boy if he is brave, selfless and truthful. Our narrator up to this point has been one Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a wisecracking cricket who soon finds himself assigned to be the young puppet’s temporary conscience.

The story follows Disney’s previous version of Pinocchio pretty accurately, with a failed attempt at school attendance, a less than savoury experience in the world of performance and exploitation, and a nightmarish trip to a land where childhood boundaries don’t exist. Zemeckis has taken these beats and made them a little bigger, a little darker, and a little more threatening. It will be interesting to see how different Guillermo del Toro’s interpretation of this 19th century Italian classic will be.

The cast, both voice and live, is very good. Tom Hanks is always able to switch effortlessly between pulling our heartstrings or tickling our funny bones. Benjamin Evan Ainsworth (who’s fantastic leading the cast of CBC’s sitcom Son of a Critch) gives us a Pinocchio that’s full of wide-eyed innocence, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt has just the right amount of heart and snark as the wisecracking Jiminy. Cynthia Erivo brings both class and pipes to the role of the Blue Fairy and Kyanne Lamaya has a good mix of sadness and spirit as a puppeteer who befriends Pinocchio. While Luke Evans’s coachmen is very dark, Keegan-Michael Key gets stuck with a ridiculous amount of pop culture references in his role as Honest John, a conniving fox that leads our wooden boy astray.

Zemeckis and his team of digital artists have created a bright and colourful world where CGI and live-action blend seamlessly. If you’ve never seen the original you’ll probably find this an entertaining diversion, but if you’ve grown up with the animated classic, you’ll wonder if this Pinocchio brings anything new to the table or if it’s a wooden imitation.