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Davis Journal

Disney’s live-action ‘Pinocchio’ offers twist on original

Sep 09, 2022 10:35AM ● By Jenniffer Wardell

For the most part, Disney’s live-action adaptations have been decent but kind of pointless. Any additions or alterations to the script felt like padding, often making the iconic original stories seem muddled. The CGI has been interesting, but not better than the classic animation. 

Oddly enough, Disney’s newest “Pinocchio” might be the first live-action adaptation to have a real reason behind it. Premiering on Disney+ this weekend, the movie makes enough changes to the ending to significantly alter the message of the movie. It’s a refreshing update, justifying its existence as a separate film without invalidating the original movie at all. 

In the 1940 movie, Pinocchio becoming a real boy was a serious moral quest that propelled the entire film. The message was on how to be a good person, learning how to not be selfish and care about others. In the 2022 version, the question of what constitutes “real” turns the movie into a lovely message about what kind of people have value.

This is echoed in the movie’s second-biggest change, the addition of a second female character performed by Kyanne Lamaya. Fabian is also trapped in Stromboli’s circus, and she communicates with Pinocchio both as herself and through her marionette. This lets her interact with Pinocchio’s story in interesting ways, drawing more attention to the question of what it means to be real.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t totally avoid the problems of its predecessors. There are definitely places where the story feels padded out with unnecessary extra content, dragging down the pace. The opening is a particularly bad example of this, with an entire additional character that we never see again and adds nothing to the story.

Jiminy Cricket’s additional backstory also feels unnecessary, fitting better with the moral growth direction of the first movie than the “what is real” theme of this one. Though the character remains perfectly pleasant, there are periods where the script seems unsure what to do with him at all.

The movie is a mix of live action and CGI, with Fabian and Tom Hanks’ Gepetto as their real selves. Though this sometimes draws unfortunate attention to the characters who are CGI, it also makes the entire movie feel more grounded. As I learned from 2004’s “The Polar Express,” It’s much less distracting to look at Hank’s real face than a CGI copy.

In the end, though, it’s not about the visuals. The live-action “Pinocchio” is far from a perfect movie, but it shares an important message in a sweet way. It’s worth watching right along with the original.

Grade: Two and a half stars

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Utah Film Critics Association. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at [email protected]  λ