I’m unable to speak with authority about any of the Pinocchio productions over the years, but I will tell you this newest version, helmed by Back to the Future’s Robert Zemeckis, is about as modern as it could be, laced with themes of diversity, inclusion, honesty, bravery, and happiness. Glitzed with CGI and live action, it has enough delights both visually and figuratively to satisfy even the hardest-core Disneyphile.
Although for some there may be too much preaching about the integrity of the individual, Pinocchio endures especially for the young, who need clarity and simplicity with topics already choked by social media rants.
Who better than Tom Hanks to play a live action, disconsolate Gepetto, the clock maker with soul enough to power the world’s time pieces? While he misses his late boy almost to the point of inaction, he retains his hope of renewing him by fashioning a wooden puppet, Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth—voice), who magically comes alive hoping to be a real boy if he adheres to some heady virtues.
The film emphasizes the importance of valuing who you are, wood or clay, in rapid challenges for the woodboy, most of them encouraging him to select either integrity or fame for a happy puppet. As in Sylvester Stallone’s current Samaritan, youngsters get the choice between good and evil, and because this is Disney, we know how that ends.
If Zemeckis’s take on the 1883 Carlo Collodi’s tale is not happy enough for you, and the 1940 Disney classic not definitive enough, November will bring Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion version. That puppet gets eternally remade because it’s darn good storytelling. Enjoy on Disney+.
Director: Robert Zemeckis (Polar Express, Forrest Gump, Back to the Future)
Screenplay: Zemeckis, Chris Weitz (Antz), Simon Farnaby (Paddington 2) from story by Carlo Collodi
Cast: Tom Hanks (Polar Express), Joseph Gordon Levitt (Inception)
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts NPR’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics as well as podcasts Back Talk and Double Take out of WCBE 90.5 FM. Contact him at JohnDeSando52@gmail.com