Welcome, World Travelers! The Live-Action Pinocchio…Exists!
by James Coulter
Ever since I started reviewing Disney movies for my column, I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to review a live-action Disney remake. Lo and behold! On Disney Plus Day on Sept. 8, the live-action adaptation of Pinocchio premiered on Disney Plus.
There are two flavors of live-action Disney remakes. Some remakes try to do something actually unique and radically different with the original source material (Alice in Wonderland, Maleficent, Cruella). These movies are not usually good, by any means, but they at least attempt to do something new and original.
Then there are the remakes that simply retread the plot of the original animated movie, only in live-action and with a few minor changes and additions to sate the clickbait listicle writers who obsess over “plotholes” and “outdated, problematic elements” in the original films (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Lion King, Lady and the Tramp).
As Pinocchio falls into the category of the latter rather than the former, what can I honestly say about it? Really. What can I say that hasn’t already been said about remakes like Aladdin or Lion King? These movies are universally and critically despised yet commercially successful enough that Disney keeps making them and will most likely continue making them until the heat death of the universe.
Have you seen the original animated Pinocchio? Then you’ve seen the live-action adaptation. The only difference is that the live-action remake is, well, filmed in live action with a few minor changes and additions to make it appear different and slightly more “woke.” That’s it! That’s all you need to know.
But I guess I have to write something, right? So rather than write a formal movie review, I’m instead going to list every single major and minor change the live-action adaptation makes:
1. Geppetto has a dead wife and he designs Pinocchio after his dead son. In a good movie, this character aspect would be developed. In this movie, it isn’t.
2. Geppetto’s cuckoo clocks feature various Disney characters including Donald Duck, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Dumbo, Woody from Toy Story, Young Simba and Rafiki from Lion King, and Roger Rabbit and Jessica from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. (You know, Disney, there’s hiding Easter eggs in the hopes that someone may stumble upon them, and then there’s taking an entire basket of Easter eggs and pelting people with them in the face shouting, “Get it? Do you get the reference yet?”)
3. The Blue Fairy appears to give Pinocchio life and make Jiminy his conscience. She never appears again in the movie.
4. Honest John and Gideon appear to tempt Pinocchio to join the puppet show. They never appear again in the movie.
5. Honest John suggests Pinocchio become an “influencer”, and he recommends that his stage name should be “Chris Pine.” (It’s funny because pop culture reference!)
6. Pinocchio smells poop. No. Seriously. There’s an entire scene where he falls next to horse manure, and he stops to look at it and smell it because he’s never seen feces before. (Somehow, Robert Zemeckis thought this was necessary.)
7. Initally, Pinocchio decides to go to school rather than the puppet show. But he changes his mind after he’s kicked out of school for being a puppet and not a real boy.
8. There’s a seagull character named Sofia. She takes Jiminy to Pinocchio as he’s being accosted by Honest John and Gideon. She later takes them to the sea where Geppetto has sailed away.
9. At Stromboli’s puppet show, there’s a ballerina puppet named Sabina who interacts with Pinocchio. She’s controlled by a black disabled girl named Fabina. Why is she black and disabled? To meet Disney’s diversity quota, obviously!
10. Okay. She exists to tell Pinocchio that she and the other puppeteers are going to take the money Stromboli stole from them and run away to start their own puppet troupe. (Ah, how cute! The “woke” company with an infamous history of union busting wants to preach about the virtues of workers’ rights.)
11. Later in the movie, Sabina informs Pinocchio that Stromboli has been arrested and placed in jail for stealing from his workers. (Forget the talking wooden puppets and animals. A greedy capitalist being arrested for wage theft proves this film is pure fantasy!)
12. Pinocchio learns that his nose grows when he lies, so he lies so that his nose can reach the key and Jiminy can free him. (Turns out lying is a good thing, actually.)
13. Pinocchio runs into the coachman on his own. The coachman sings about how the puppet should come to Pleasure Island with him because having a conscience is for losers.
14. There’s an extended sequence where Pinocchio and Lampwick ride a boat/roller coaster through Pleasure Island. Nobody smokes or drinks beers, of course. But they still smash stuff up. (Remember, kids: smoking and alcohol are bad, but property damage is a-ok!)
15. The coachman employs evil dark cloud creatures that look like the Heartless from Kingdom Hearts. This allegedly explains how he uses magic to transform the children into donkeys.
16. Monstro is a whale/squid/sea monster hybrid now.
17. Also, Pinocchio can kick his legs real fast like a speed boat propeller.
18. Remember how Geppetto gets sad because he thinks Pinocchio has died? In this film, the roles are reversed. What purpose does this serve? None, whatsoever.
19. Pinocchio never turns into a real boy. Yes, that’s actually the case. The wooden puppet who wanted to be a real boy, his sole motivation in the story, remains a puppet.
Overall, Pinocchio may have some gorgeous visuals (this is a movie directed by Robert Zemeckis, after all), and it may entertain children for a good hour or so, but like every other Disney live-action remake before it, this film has nothing new or original to offer.
If you love the original animated movie, watch it. If you want an original take on the Pinocchio story, watch Guillermo del Toro’s adaptation on Netflix later this year. Otherwise, there’s no reason to watch Disney’s latest live-action rehash.