If ever Geppetto, the wood carver in Carlo Collodi’s 1883 classic, The Adventures of Pinocchio, was a Hollywood star, he would surely be Tom Hanks. And in the live-action version of Disney’s 1940 animated classic, that is exactly who plays Geppetto.
In their fourth collaboration following Forrest Gump (1994), Cast Away (2000), and The Polar Express (2004), director Robert Zemeckis and Hanks have created a sweet, heart-warming movie. Pinocchio is fairly close to the animated version both in look and sound. The ending, however, has been changed.
Told from Jiminy Cricket’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) point of view, the film tells the story of Geppetto, who is lonely after losing his beloved wife and son. He creates a puppet out of pinewood and calls him Pinocchio. When Geppetto wishes upon a star, the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) animates the puppet Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) and promises him that he will become a real boy if he is good.
Jiminy Cricket is appointed as Pinocchio’s temporary conscience. Pinocchio’s path to becoming a boy is strewn with temptations and characters waiting to divert him from his goal. The cunning fox, Honest John (Keegan-Michael Key), the wicked puppeteer, Stromboli (Giuseppe Battiston), the Coachman (Luke Evans) who leads children astray to Pleasure Island only to turn them into donkeys and sell them as slave labour, and Monstro, the big sea monster, are some of the villains Pinocchio meets.
Lampwick (Lewin Lloyd), the boy Pinocchio meets on the way to Pleasure Island, is not bad so much as naughty even though he cheats at the pool. There are people who help Pinocchio too including a kind puppeteer, Fabiana (Kyanne Lamaya), and a seagull, Sofia (Lorraine Bracco).
There are songs from the original (‘ When You Wish Upon a Star’, ‘ Little Wooden Head’, ‘ Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee’ and ‘ I’ve Got No Strings’) as well as new ones including ‘ When He Was Here With Me’, ‘ Pinocchio, Pinocchio’ (see Hanks sing!) ‘ I Will Always Dance’ and ‘ The Coachman to Pleasure Island’.
The animation is gorgeous and seamless. Apart from some updating, including the many clocks in Gepetto’s workshop sporting themes from Disney films, such as Toy Story and Maleficent, Pinocchio revels in a kind of seductive timelessness.
In the true tradition of a children’s adventure story, (we are not talking about dystopic YA) things never get too bad — even Monstro has kind eyes and blunt, round teeth. For a darker look at the marionette who wished to cut his strings and become a real boy, we will have to wait for Guillermo del Toro’s stop motion animation version set in 1930s fascist Italy.
Pinocchio is currently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar