“Pinocchio”, however, never quite looks like a live-action movie, in part because of its lead character’s appearance and computer-animated rendering; instead, it’s almost like a flipped “Paddington” movie, with a few live-action characters – notably Hanks’ Geppetto – dropped into an otherwise animated setting, with even Figaro the cat sporting a distracting CGI look.
Zemeckis and co-writer Chris Weitz cobbled together minor changes to the original story, but the setting remains the same, with the loner Geppetto wishing his puppet creation (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) life, sending it to school and triggering a series of unlikely adventures. They prepare for his encounter with the sailor Monstro, promoted to “sea monster” status, having slandered the whales enough.
Above all, “Pinocchio” itself lands in a kind of no man’s land – too uninspired to bring anything new to the material, dutifully playing like a pale reworking of the 1940 classic, arguably one of the finest Disney’s animated films of this pivot stretch into its debut. It also largely squanders the voice talents of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Keegan-Michael Key as Jiminy Cricket and “Honest” John, respectively.
This “Pinocchio” also arrives before Netflix unveils director Guillermo del Toro’s stab at the beloved property, leaving plenty of room for another take on a story that’s clearly not likely to go out of fashion.
While it might be unreasonable to expect much more from this type of highly calculated exploitation of the studio’s library than a mere diversion that parents can share with children, it’s not unreasonable to wish that the live-action “Pinocchio” might have possessed a little more. size than this.
“Pinocchio” premieres September 8 on Disney+.