I couldn’t… help myself. Watching the Disney film again made me curious about the other adaptations of Pinocchio. I heard the best one is this 6 episode miniseries Le avventure di Pinocchio (1972), but that’s beyond my current capabilities because I don’t understand Italian (and there doesn’t seem to be any dubbed or subbed version widely available). So I opted to settle for one film I saw once a long while back, and another I don’t recall ever seeing before.
’96 version Rated: 2 / 5
So this 1996 live action adaptation, it is closer to the source material, kind of. In that Pinocchio isn’t quite so innocent, particularly with how he decimates this cake shop. But if I’m being honest, that’s really the only time he acts like an asshole. Well, that and this scene in school, where he lies and grows his nose and sneezes. But it’s not THAT close to the source material; at least not compared to this 1971 animated version (which was also originally Italian, but it got an English dub). That version is so close to the original story, that it pretty much acknowledges blatantly when it doesn’t have enough time to mention all the “adventures” that Pinocchio goes on. The story moves along fine until it hits these “storybook” moments that are literally like, “And Pinocchio went on some other adventures, and then this happened.” Making us miss out on those “other adventures.” As in, “Read the book you dumb fucking kids, if you want the whole story. We don’t have the time or money to animate it all.” I mean, I do have to admire their honesty.
’71 version rated: 2.5 / 5
And how is Pinocchio in this ’71 version? He’s a twat, plain and simple. Complete bastard throughout a good portion of the film. And the whole story is all about him learning why being a dipshit is bad, and why boys should act good and grateful towards others (assuming those others aren’t trying to take advantage of them). It definitely has the feel of a raw untouched fable that wasn’t watered down much, if at all. And it’s good in it’s own way with what lessons it teaches (and how it teaches them), even if the overall film quality is less than that of the animated Disney version. But it does have events that Disney would probably never do, like Pinocchio burning his feet off, or getting hung (noose around the neck, dangling from a tree). Overall, despite being closer to the source material (and probably being as close as you can get movie-wise), it was overall so-so to me. I’d recommend it for those who want an alternative take compared to the Disney version so you can compare how Disney altered characters and events. I say it’s worth one watch, if you’re curious at all. What it lacks in animation quality it makes up for in being faithful to the original story. But I think I’d rather read the book though than listen to the English dubbing again.
The 1996 version though. I wasn’t all that into it as a kid (except to see how it compared to the Disney animated version), and that hasn’t changed today. It’s just not that interesting to me. The pacing of the film, and the overall tone, is just odd. How they portray various parts of the story. Making the fox and cat human (that’s bullshit!). The discount Monstro is strange-looking, though I will give them kudos for being different with how they portrayed being in his belly (even if it inevitably resulted in a far less exciting and overall entertaining finale). Pinocchio himself just looks frikkin’ weird, though I do have to give the film props for making him actually puppet-like, with some animatronic action going on. But the actor playing Geppetto, Martin Landau, gave a very good effort, God bless him (the film wasn’t worthy of what he provided). And Pleasure Island… Well in all fairness, that was the most interesting part of the film. I kinda liked how they portrayed it as more of a hidden carnival park than as a huge island dedicated solely to being a giant theme park. I also liked some of the games they played before going on the Knott’s Berry Farm log ride. However, the coachman didn’t seem to have things well thought-out. The whole operation wasn’t going to last with how that was run, so it’s no wonder Pinocchio busted it wide open.
There is something about the ’96 film that puzzles me. Obviously one of the biggest lessons to be learned from any respectable adaptation of this story is that lying is bad. Yet Pinocchio intentionally lies to get him and Geppetto out of Monstro. Telling Geppetto he hates him, so that his nose can grow so he can lodge Monstro’s throat so he can cough them out. I mean, on the one hand, it’s kind of a neat moment that has a dual meaning. On the other hand, it takes away from the sensibility of the original story regarding how lying is bad, plain and simple. I would’ve been willing to just go with it if not for the fact that one of the first things he does when he becomes a real boy is lie to the fox/cat character, with the intention of sending them to Pleasure Island (it’s not really called that in the movie from what I recall) so that they will drink the water and turn into jackasses. Revenge doesn’t suit a story like this, as it’s a betrayal of the core message. It would’ve been better if some karma situation happened with them.
That’s one of the many reasons why the ’96 version fails where the ’40 version succeeded. Getting revenge on the villains and putting a stop to their wicked ways. Leaving out that subliminal message of needing to be on guard against people like that who are still out and about in the world, both inside and outside of the story. In the ’72 version, that only really happened with the fox/cat, but that seemed to be more karma than anything Pinocchio did directly.
I think the main issue with the ’96 live action version is that it isn’t sure what it wants to be. If nothing else, the ’71 animated version definitely knows what it is and sticks with it the entire way through (for better or worse). I can recommend the Italian animated version for those who are curious, but can’t really say the same for the ’96 live action version.
PS: And just to get ahead of the curb, I’m not going to recommend the new remake from Disney coming out in a year or so where fucking Tom Hanks is playing Geppetto (you know, I’m really sick of Hanks, ever since 2010 and onwards, with the exception of Sully), and they make another beloved classic “good” character black. Though honestly, I’m not all that mad about that. It was only a matter of time before black people started taking on the roles of (blue) fairies… again. Worked out so well last time when they decided to take a wiz on The Wizard of Oz. Next thing you know they’ll be singing, “Thank heaven for little girls.” I miss the gangster days where they would make fun of fairies and bust a cap in their asses rather than be fairies who are asking for something to get busted in their ass. Better yet, I miss the days where they would be villains in films with white protagonists. That’s why black people will never be a character like The Coachmen, who will be some pimp who pimps out all his asses and forces them to make money off the street. If I’m being honest, that’s not a bad idea. I’d be more than willing to watch a black gangsta version of Pinocchio that takes place in 70’s Chicago or later, where the fox and cat are like a fox and cat out of a Ralph Bakshi movie, Geppetto is some old black Vietnam war vet who creates Pinocchio out of some shellshock delusion. Pinocchio gets pulled into the thug life and learns about pimps, hoes, dope, and runs from the law until he gets caught and put in prison. And then learns about getting raped and shanked. Then when he gets out some decades later (it starts in the 70s, then moves on towards more modern times), he becomes a rap star, gets involved with Hollywood, then goes to Epstein’s island and gets raped by Kevin Spacey (or Tom Hanks). There’s a happy ending somewhere in that story outside of a massage parlor. Maybe Pinocchio joins BLM, dual wields some uzis, and then goes to town on Epstein island and Hollywood or something. Or some sort of uplifting note.
Tell me you wouldn’t want to see that movie. I mean seriously, racial swapping characters can work if they do something else with it to make it their own. The problem is that Disney is no longer capable of doing that. They had more creativity in the 90s when they made The Lion King by ripping off Kimba the White Lion, and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.