“Pinocchio,” however, doesn’t ever really feel like a live-action movie, in part because of the look and computer-animated rendering of its title character; instead, it’s almost like a reverse “Paddington” film, with a few live-action figures — most 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 have cobbled together minor changes to the original story, but the framework remains the same, with the lonely Geppetto wishing his puppet creation (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) to life, sending him off to school and triggering a string of improbable adventures. They build toward his encounter with the seafaring Monstro, upgraded to “sea monster” status, having maligned whales quite enough.
Mostly, “Pinocchio” itself washes ashore into a kind of no-man’s land — too uninspired to bring anything fresh to the material, dutifully playing like a pallid redo of the 1940 classic, arguably one of Disney’s most beautiful animated films from that pivotal stretch in its early history. It also largely squanders the vocal talents of the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Keegan-Michael Key as Jiminy Cricket and “Honest” John, respectively.
This “Pinocchio” also happens to arrive before Netflix unveils director Guillermo del Toro’s stab at the beloved property, leaving plenty of room for another interpretation of a story that’s clearly in no danger of going out of style.
While it’s perhaps unreasonable to expect a whole lot more from this sort of highly calculated leveraging of the studio’s library than a simple diversion for parents to share with kids, it’s not unreasonable to wish the live-action “Pinocchio” might have possessed a little more dimension than this.
“Pinocchio” premieres September 8 on Disney+.