Friday, 9 September 2022

Pinocchio (2022)

Just to avoid any confusion, this is the Robert Zemeckis version from Disney, this week released on the Disney+ Channel (at least, in the UK). I was a childhood fan of the original Pinocchio from Disney, the cartoon, and watched it over and over whenever I could drag my mum to the cinema! Then I got the LP record of the songs and soundtrack, which over time I wore out! Now, 55 years later, can the magic be recaptured, I wondered.

It seems to be all the rage recently to do a Pinocchio film and tell the story. I covered the Italian 2019 version with Robert Benigni a couple of years back, there's also the version that Benigni directed and we now have the forthcoming (to Netflix) Guillermo del Toro animated version which claims to tell the original, dark Italian story from the book by Carlo Collodi.

This one sticks very closely to the 1940 telling and variation of the story, with added bits and pieces here and there and whisks along at a faster pace. Some of the original songs are here and more besides - and it all works in together very nicely. The Blue Fairy makes less appearances in this version, in fact, only one - a great turn by Cynthia Erivo (Harriet, Widows). Geppetto is played by Tom Hanks (Finch, Bridge of Spies, Inferno) and actually, he's not really in very it much. For those who remember the story, he's significant in the first act and the last, but not much in between. Hanks, as you'd expect, plays it beautifully well, convincing and heart-warming to the core. Mr Family Entertainment Guy!

Just to explain, the film is part-animation, part real actors and lots of special effects which helps to sprinkle the magic-dust on the whole family outing. It plays with light and shadow excellently, creating real atmosphere and the animation stuff only slightly starts to fall away in the final 10 minutes, as we draw to a finale, which, incidentally, is not quite as expected.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Snowden, The Walk) voices Jiminy Cricket very well indeed and Luke Evans (Angel of Mine, High Rise) as The Coachman is worthy of mention. There's a new character introduced as an employee of Stromboli's Circus, who is a disabled puppeteer (at least, I don't remember her). She is played by newcomer Kyanne Lamaya very nicely as her ballerina puppet (playing the part in life for her since her disability stopped her), interacts warmly and positively with Pinocchio, helping him along the path of life choices.

The whole set of Pleasure Island has been embellished, extended much more this time, turning the scene into more of a Willy Wonka type experience, though the dark implications of those who enter is doled out in heaps. The Disney cartoon gave viewers a chill (and some thought maybe not suitably so for the target audience age) but this takes it a step further with the nasty, sinister outcomes.

Through all that though, it's a very similarly told tale about right and wrong, learning the lessons in life in order to attain and maintain moral fibre, making the decent family-orientated decisions about what and who is 'important' and who to trust and be wary of. I'm sure most reading this will know the bones of the way in which the 1940 cartoon was told.

That's about it really. It's a charming, delightfully presented slice of fantasy which families will lap up on Boxing Day afternoon for years to come. Hopefully they will also be shown the cartoon version, whilst we adults can look forward to the grizzly, nasty version coming on Netflix!

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