I won’t keep you in suspense. I loathed Disney’s Pinocchio remake.
Now, admittedly, I’ve spent years thinking and writing about Pinocchio as an allegory for the human struggle to find authenticity and meaning. I wrote a play about him (“Geppetto’s Funeral”) and my novel, “Pinocchio’s Guide the End of the World” is coming out in March, 2023. So my standards might be higher than some. The Disney movie is intended for children who may enjoy it on a level I can’t.
But honestly, I don’t think it’s just me. It’s bad.
Disney has managed to remove every last splinter of spunk out of the poor boy. Not that they didn’t do most of that work in the 1940 version. But the new script is wooden, the dialogue obvious and heavy-handed, the pacing glacial. The tree Pinocchio was carved from probably grew from an acorn faster than Jiminy’s opening monologue. Scenes flip from one to the next as if they’re being checked off on a story-beat list by a weary production manager. Wishing star. Check. Dancing marionettes. Check. Donkey ears. Check. It achieved the trick of feeling both interminable and fleeting at the same time. Maybe I napped, but when Pinoke and Pops were being sneezed out of a whale, I was like, wait, is this the end already? I was still pining for something interesting to happen. To start caring.
Not even poor Tom Hanks could breathe life or charm into his vapid lines. He did a great job of looking sad and old. I don’t blame him.
The visuals were beautifully rendered, but beautifully rendered visuals are the bare minimum these days—a matter of budget and imagination. Disney has piles of the first and seems to have run out of the second. Excellent production values cannot take the place of good storytelling and characters with enough humanity to fall in love with and cheer on through their struggles.
Disney used to be brave enough to go to the dark, primal places fairy tales are supposed to go. Snow White had some scary shit in it. My toddler son was traumatized by those hallucinogenic pink elephants in Dumbo. Bambi’s mother was shot by a hunter, for Walt’s sake!
This was a movie designed by accountants and lawyers.