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Film review: Pinocchio (2022)

Review Overview Cast 6/10 CGI 1/10 Script Rating 1/10 Robert Zemeckis' misjudged remake of the Disney classic is too wooden to be a real charmer.

Director: Robert Zemeckis Cast: Tom Hanks, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cynthia Erivo, Keegan-Michael Key, Giuseppe Battiston, Luke Evans Certificate: PG

From Matteo Garrone to Guillermo del Toro, the tale of Pinocchio is still inspiring filmmakers to revisit Carlo Collodi’s 1883 fable, one that teaches kids morals through warnings of the dark consequences that await children who go down the wrong paths in life. Unfortunately, one of those filmmakers is Robert Zemeckis.

It would be a lie to say that his live-action retelling of Disney’s animated classic in any way lives up to the 1940 original. The film recreates it almost beat by beat, once again following the adventures of the eponymous wooden puppet (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth), who is created by the carpenter Geppetto (Tom Hanks) – and, after a visit from the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo), ends up alive and hoping to become a real boy. Appointed a conscience in the form of Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), he’s sent off to school and winds up being tempted by fame, wealth and hedonism. To become a real boy, he must resist and do the right thing.

From the off, the film struggles to exist in the uncanny valley it carves out for itself. From Beowulf to A Christmas Carol, Zemeckis is an old hand at playing with motion-capture CGI but, after years of technological advances, there’s no excuse for how awkwardly unreal it looks here. Jiminy Cricket struggles to be cute, while the foxy Honest John (Keegan-Michael Key) is larger-than-life in an unsettling way, and a sinister detour to Pleasure Island introduces sweets and drinks that look unappetisingly fake.

All these missteps leave the humans we do encounter not knowing how to fit in. Luke Evans as the boisterous Coachman is drowned out by the scenery, while Giuseppe Battiston’s puppeteer showman Stromboli is dialled up to 12 to compete with his Steampunk creations, while Tom Hanks is left to do an unconvincing Italian accent, despite the fact that nobody else is trying to act like they’re in Italy.

The introduction of Kyanne Lamaya as Fabiana, who works for Stromboli, as a gentle ally is a nice idea but the film doesn’t follow it through, while nods to Chris Pine and influencers feel like desperate rather than timely additions to the script. As for Pinocchio himself, despite Benjamin Evan Ainsworth’s heartfelt turn, he looks and feels like a toy come to life from a nearby Disney store. Cynthia Erivo gives a remarkable rendition of When You Wish Upon a Star, but it’s not enough to bring this misjudged remake to life – it’s a commercial creation that’s too wooden to be a real charmer.

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