WHERE Streaming on Disney+
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Disney continues its quest to produce live-action remakes of the classics with "Pinocchio," directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Tom Hanks as Geppetto opposite everyone's favorite wooden puppet, brought to life thanks to the Blue Fairy and some computer-generated animation.
That's about as safe of a recipe for a surefire box office smash as it gets, reuniting the filmmaker who practically invented this sort of humans-plus-animated-co-stars production with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and the world's most beloved movie star, a frequent Zemeckis collaborator.
Of course it's become increasingly hard to determine what constitutes a hit in many cases these days. Here, the studio has bypassed theaters entirely for Disney+.
But whatever the metric might be, countless streaming hours are sure to be expended on what's mostly a faithful adaptation, albeit with forgettable new songs joining staples such as "Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee" and "When You Wish Upon a Star."
Cynthia Erivo performs the latter in a showstopping rendition as the Blue Fairy; other co-stars include Joseph Gordon-Levitt voicing Jiminy Cricket, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth as Pinocchio, Keegan-Michael Key injecting some life into the movie as the conniving Honest John and none other than Long Island native Lorraine Bracco giving voice to a seagull named Sofia.
MY SAY There's little question as to why this "Pinocchio" exists. As with "Beauty and the Beast," "The Lion King" and "Aladdin" before it, not to mention "Dumbo" and a whole host of others, it represents the latest step in a carefully calibrated strategy to gin up some profits by going back to the most beloved movies in Disney's vaunted archives.
Artistic considerations don't appear to factor into the equation here; if they did, at least one of these movies would find something new or compelling in their treatment of the material. Instead, "Pinocchio" simply joins its predecessors in being defined by an overarching pointlessness.
While Zemeckis remains one of the better Hollywood filmmakers around, incapable of making a genuinely value-free movie, he seems more like a director-for-hire here than an artist putting his stamp on iconic material.
The movie is weirdly plastic and uncomfortable.
A lot of that has to do with the utter lack of emotion defining the bond between the puppet and his father: a hollow-eyed Pinocchio is far less sympathetic than his hand-drawn predecessor. As Geppetto, Hanks finds little to do beyond rustling up a caricature of the Disney archetype of the lonely, misunderstood old man.
Elaborate steampunk visuals provide something of a saving grace from the trudge through the obligatory story points as Pinocchio embarks on his journey in Stromboli's traveling circus and to Pleasure Island. There's at least some fun to be had on Pinocchio's log flume ride through the debauchery, as his fellow kids act out all their worst gluttonous impulses.
But nothing in the movie more accurately reflects the values underpinning it all than our early glimpse of Geppetto's cuckoo clocks, filled with characters that represent other bits of studio iconography, including a brief appearance of Hanks' Woody from "Toy Story."
It plays like a Disney+ queue plugged directly into a movie, a classic bit of branding crossover that reminds you that it's always about the next sale.
BOTTOM LINE As with other Disney live-action remakes, almost without exception, you'd be better off re-watching the animated original.