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When you heard that the Oscar-winning Forrest Gump dream team of director Robert Zemeckis and Hollywood A-lister Tom Hanks were joining forces for this live-action version of a classic Disney animation – then you’d expect more ingenuity than this.

Like with 2019’s disappointing The Lion King, this is almost a ‘frame by frame’ re-telling of Walt Disney’s 82-year-old classic – just with some modern day tweaks of political correctness here and there.

What it leads to is some impressive vocal performances and fantastic visual effects – particularly Pinocchio – in quite a bland, soulless playground, that struggles to capture the magic of the timeless animation.

Even Hanks as legendary woodcarver Geppetto – who still undoubtedly gives it his all – borders on annoyingly over-the-top.

Set in a small Italian village circa 1895, lonely clock-making widower Geppetto has completed work on a strong pine-wooded marionette based on his deceased son, and before falling asleep makes a ‘wish upon a star’.

Later the star brings the puppet Pinocchio (exceptionally-voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) to life, and he’s soon visited by the Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo), who tells him that if he acts brave, truthful and selfless – he could eventually become a ‘real boy’.

Which is witnessed by vagrant cricket, Jiminy Cricket (another noteworthy turn by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is given the responsibility of becoming his conscience to aid him on his journey.

And by several famous plotlines involving shady con-artist fox Honest John, capture by evil puppet master Stromboli – with famous nose-growing due to lie-telling scene intact – and a reckless foray on Pleasure Island alongside Luke Evans’ charismatic Coachman, it all leads to the finale with father and son being stuck inside the belly of giant whale-esque sea monster Monstro.

Which all disappointingly don’t have the colourfully-magical warmth in live-action form compared to the legendary animation. And the ‘boys turning into donkeys’ on Pleasure Island is still bizarrely left unexplained without a satisfactory ending like it was when the original was released during World War II.

What this leads to is a watchable re-hash that does absolutely nothing to change the story for the better – leading to head-scratching laziness from all involved.

But at least Pinocchio and Jiminy bring a certain charm among the frustrating nature of the whole project – leaving this alongside the likes of Dumbo in the ‘most pointless of live-action Disney remakes’ category.

Which is hardly the wish that die-hard fans would have wanted.

ESP Rating: 2/5

Gavin Miller

Disney+ Exclusive, Out Now

Cast: Tom Hanks, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Keegan-Michael Key, Lorraine Bracco, Kyanne Lamaya, Giuseppe Battison, Cynthia Erivo & Luke Evans

Running Time: 1 Hr 45 Mins

Director: Robert Zemeckis

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