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Emmy Griffin / September 27, 2022

Disney’s Pinocchio Uh-Oh

The live-action remake is aimless and dismal, bereft of the classic redemption story of the original.

The Walt Disney Company’s new live-action film “Pinocchio” is a remake of its 1940 imaginative classic. It was released to audiences only through its streaming app, Disney+. Sadly, it’s not hard to understand why the decision was made to forego a theatrical release after perusing the film for the purposes of this review.

In the original animated film, Pinocchio’s story holds all the characteristics of a classic fairytale. There is magic; a fairy; a deserving and kindly clockmaker; the personification of a conscience in the form of Jiminy Cricket; an overt battle between good and evil fighting for the soul of Pinocchio; and a valiant quest with the title character becoming a real boy who has learned to be brave, honest, and good, and who “always let his conscience be his guide.”

The live-action update is in many ways a shot-for-shot remake of the original but lacks any of the joy or moral grounding. The whole tone of the first 30 minutes is serious and sad. This is perhaps because the movie scrapped the original music for those first few scenes in lieu of newer songs. In fact, any of the original music that is included in this remake centers around the manifestations of temptation (with the only exception being the Blue Fairy’s “When You Wish Upon a Star”). The new songs move the plot along but are either desperately sad like “When He was Here with Me,” which underlines the loss of Geppetto’s family, or add to the temptation that Pinocchio faces with “The Coachmen Pleasure Island,” which is a song about adult grooming and peer pressure.

Like the live-action remake of “Beauty and the Beast,” “Pinocchio” attempts to add backstory. In this version, Geppetto sings sadly about the son he lost and talks about how much his dead wife loved the cuckoo clocks. “Pinocchio” also adds characters that make no sense or that don’t really add to the plot of the movie. As likable as is the character Fabiana — the injured ballerina with a wooden brace — and her marionette Sabina, they were unnecessary and didn’t add to the overall message of the story. These “updates” were obviously targeted toward adults and not the children for which this film was ostensibly made.

The moral journey that the original Pinocchio undergoes is tainted by the woke pushing of self-esteem and loving someone no matter how he or she looks. It misses the point of “Pilgrim’s Progress” by abandoning the Christian archetype of creation-fall-redemption-restoration. This is perfectly illustrated with the new ending to the film.

[Spoilers ahead.]

In the original, the love of Geppetto and the final act of sacrifice and redemption by Pinocchio is the final step in the puppet’s quest. Pinocchio is brought back to life and is turned into a real boy.

In the updated version, Geppetto is the one who “dies” and is brought back to life by the tears of Pinocchio. Furthermore, the film ambiguously ends with us not knowing if Pinocchio ever turned into a real boy because the point is that Geppetto accepts him for who he is. It is a jarring non sequitur that seems to derail the whole film.

As was already mentioned, this film was released directly to Disney+ instead of to theaters like others of its kind. It is the modern-day equivalent of a movie being released straight to VHS. It is clear that The Walt Disney Company understands that it doesn’t have a winner in this film; instead, it’s just the latest in missed hits, all while the company’s stock is way down. Perhaps if Disney hadn’t abandoned its target audience in pursuit of woke ideology and virtue signaling, it wouldn’t continue to flounder. Alas, the beloved wooden puppet film was a hollow copy of its former glory.

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