Ok, so here we are with the next film. Glad that Ben didn’t hate Snow White as much as I thought he might. Yes, I agree. Her singing was questionable. Like she was sat on a washing machine, at times. The gender-stereotyping is something he’s just going to have to deal with (however, look out for my post on the evolution of feminism in Disney, which will be going up on Disney GFTM this
Friday Sunday…. Oops!).
On 7th February 1940, Walt Disney Animation Studios released it’s second film, Pinocchio. Based on the 1883 book ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’, by Italian author Carlo Collodi, it tells the story of a woodcarver named Geppetto who creates a puppet that he calls Pinocchio. The puppet comes to life, acts like a little shit towards his creator and eventually gets hung by a fox and cat. Lovely! So naturally Disney said, “Brilliant! Let’s make it into a children’s film”. Ok, so he isn’t quite as much of a shit in this adaptation and doesn’t get hung at the end but, well.
Let’s start with the positives. Jiminy Cricket is entertaining and Figaro & Cleo are cute. I remember laughing out loud and then ‘whizzing back’ (video, y’see) the part where Honest John spots Pinocchio for the first time and casually says “Oh look, little wooden boy”, when I was a child. I remember my brother and I watching this film a lot back then.
Then, I remember being at the Walt Disney World, Disney Studios park, when I was 17, and walking through ‘Walt Disney Presents’. At the end you sit in a small theatre and watch ‘A Film Tribute in Walt’s Own Words’, where it show’s various scenes from some of the earlier Disney films. One of the scenes was the part in Pinocchio when Lampwick turns into a donkey, screaming “Help me! Help me! Mama! Mamaaa!!!” and I remember (despite being 17) feeling genuinely quite horrified. It seems that it’s only when you’re an adult you realise how utterly terrifying that scene really is. It changed my opinion of the film from then onwards and I’ve never felt the same about it. Thankfully, this opinion was validated when I told my friend that we were about to review Pinocchio and even she replied with, “Oh my god, that’s film’s scary. The boys turned into donkeys”. I need to add that this is someone who loves the ‘Saw’ film series, so she is not easily scared by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t like the fact that there is no closure on the ‘children-turning-into-donkeys’ part of the story. Yes, they were ‘stupid little boys’, but they are just that. ‘Little boys’. Savage!
Anyway, the film has some good points, but generally it’s just not a nice story.
So here we are again, film number 2 – ‘Pinocchio’. Once again I will be providing a ‘say what I see’ review of proceedings, and once again it will contain spoilers throughout. I found Snow White bearable (in places), and I’ve even been brave enough to approach this one with just beer and nothing stronger.
The only pretalk preparation I’ve received regarding this film is that it’s quite disturbing. What a great way to sell it to me. I don’t ‘do’ disturbing. I actively avoid disturbing. I truly hate those women’s magazines packed with harrowing stories of wives being molested as they watch their husband fall off a cliff or explode almost as much as I hate the women who take perverse pleasure in reading it. And here I am watching a film that’s “disturbing”. A kid’s film at that. Joy.
We have an intro that I can’t really distinguish from the intro of Snow White. Maybe it will actually be Tom and Jerry this time? Oh for Christ’s sake, Kerry is welling up as she listens to ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’. I know it’s annoying and is going on far too long but…. oh, she’s singing, I think she’s enjoying it. Each to their own, I guess.
We start with a dude that had one-upped the Dwarves for being vertically-challenged, so I’m guessing by film twelve we won’t be able to even see some of the characters. It turns out he’s a cricket. I’ll let him off. He’s taking us on a journey to…. I want to say Switzerland? It looks Swiss, but Pinocchio? Sounds Italian. We go to the workshop of Geppetto, ok, definitely Italian then. Or the Italian speaking part of Switzerland? I am overthinking this way too much. This Jiminy Cricket is an entertaining character. I already have a “Dwarf” level of respect for him and they were easily the best thing in ‘Snow White’. He’s wandering round talking and poking toys in the penis with his umbrella and we switch to a cat and an old guy, presumably Geppetto…
He sounds slightly German, so perhaps he is Swiss after all, ok I’ve got to stop being side-tracked by this. Whilst Jiminy Cricket pervs on a figurine of a woman with a phenomenal booty, Geppetto pisses around with a wooden-toy boy on strings. As you do. He wants to name him Pinocchio, but the pet Cat and Pet Goldfish don’t like the name. They’re very intelligent pets then, but rather difficult to please it seems. This whole scene feels a little creepy. Geppetto singing whilst he plays with Pinocchio feels creepy. Pinocchio looks a bit creepy, but not as creepy looking as his creator. I wouldn’t be surprised if whilst in this room he makes toys, in another he makes centipedes out of humans. He’s just moved a string to make Pinocchio kick the cat. Yup, confirmed psycho.
It’s the beginning of a new hour (in the film I mean, in reality it feels like time is crawling to a halt, can we really be only ten minutes in?) and a load of cuckoo-style clocks go completely apeshit. Instead of cuckoos popping out though, instead they have things like someone repeatedly trying to behead a turkey and a boy being repeatedly spanked. Good god this is getting more twisted by the second.
Speaking of twisted, it seems the fish fancies the cat, so Geppetto tries to MAKE THE CAT KISS THE FISH!
Geppetto gets into bed and looks at the toy and tells the cat, “He almost looks like a real boy. I wish he was a real boy”. Right. I’m really desperately trying not to take it in the obvious direction here but is this why the film is so disturbing perhaps?!!! I can’t think of many characters who have done more to disturb me in the opening ten minutes that’s for sure. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but then you realise how lonely he has to be to want his toy to come to life, so he has companionship. That’s pretty heart-breaking! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still quite creeped out but at least I feel I’m warming to him slightly.
Now he’s talking to one of the stars in the sky. Seriously. And he asks the star to grant him his wish that Pinocchio will turn into a real boy. I guess the reason we don’t have world peace right now is due to wishes only being granted to old maniacs who want their toys brought to life, whereas the selfless folks who want happiness and safety for all, will go wanting. The warmth I had for Geppetto is fading away again.
Those bloody annoying clocks are ticking loudly once more as they all try to sleep. How can anyone cope with that?! Even Jiminy Cricket is at his wits end. On a side note; Geppetto snores like my Dad snores. Now back to the story.
Oh look, a star is dropping out of the sky to say hello. The star has turned into what I’m guessing is a fairy. A mutton dressed as lamb fairy at that. I feel like I’m on a weird trip, this is a bizarre, bizarre film. She decides to grant Geppetto’s wish as he’s such an upstanding dude. She’s made Pinocchio real, but tells him that if he wants to be a real boy, rather than continuing to be a weird talking wooden thing, he has to prove he’s brave, truthful and unselfish. She’s a sodding fairy so why she can’t use magic to make him a nice boy, God only knows. If he fails then Geppetto will be the one who’s had his hopes raised and, through no fault of his own, have the boy taken away again. That would be a horrible reward for being an upstanding dude. She really hasn’t thought this one through. Shame on her.
The cricket has now been made the boys conscience and will need to keep an eye on him. Can’t see that going spectacularly wrong. Although apparently, he needs a new suit for this task. I didn’t think there would be a formal dress code for the job. Not that I was aware that could be such a job in the first place. A consciencitor? She’s made this whole thing far too complicated. But then again, I can’t blame her for trying to be creative as it must be quite boring when your day job is just being a star.
Jiminy give Pinocchio a consciencitor-to-boy chat about staying away from temptations (crack, prostitutes, etc…) But he can whistle for help whenever he’s in trouble. And on that note, Jiminy starts singing. Wondered how long that would take. At least when he sings, he doesn’t sound like an old lady on a trampoline (see previous review).
It took a surprisingly long time for Geppetto to realise Pinocchio has indeed sprung to life but when he does, he accepts the unlikeliest of scenarios a little bit too easily. As in, straight away. The fish, who has quickly moved her affections from the cat to Pinocchio it seems, gives him a kiss. Whore. But can you be a whore when you have a five second memory? Speaking of whore’s, Jiminy takes this moment to hit on another figurine.
Geppetto takes Pinocchio to bed with him (don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it), and tells him he will have to go to school tomorrow. Despite the obvious questions about the absurdly quick enrolment process and assumption the school has available spaces, I definitely wonder how they will explain on the enrolment forms where the hell he came from. I suppose there must be a ‘tick this box if your child was built out of wood and brought to life by a middle-aged fairy’ option somewhere. Also, it’s worth considering that school children can be right little bastards, and if a child can be bullied and shamed for having ginger hair or wearing glasses, what the fuck are they going to do to a kid made out of wood?! He will be annihilated! The fact he’s dressed like a twat won’t help matters either.
So he’s sent off to school the next morning. Full marks to Geppetto for forward thinking, as he appears to have all the necessary school supplies already bought in advance, just in case someday one of his toys became sentient.
In a rather coincidental twist, the worlds only wooden boy passes what is presumably the world’s only, slightly evil-looking, fox and cat couple that walk and dress like humans. The fox delivers a beautiful line of “oh look, a little wooden boy…. A WOODEN BOY?!” and immediately smells a marketing opportunity. I suppose when you’re a fox who walks and dresses like a human, there is less disbelief to be addressed regarding a walking, talking wooden boy. They want Pinocchio to go into showbiz and work for “Stromboli’s Puppet Theatre”. Singing a song to him should help seal the deal. Ah, there we go.
Right now, despite a few fun moments, I’m not really enjoying the film. Its all a bit too ridiculous and stuff is just sort of happening and I’m not really warming to any of the characters. But I shall persevere! Because I have no bloody choice.
The Fox who is apparently called ‘Honest John’ sings a song about ‘an actor’s life for me’ for an extremely long time before Jiminy Cricket turns up, finally, to try and save Pinocchio from temptation but Pinocchio is quite frankly being a bit of a dick and goes with them anyway.
We now meet Stromboli. Despite his Italian name, he sounds a bit Eastern European but looks as if he should be selling Kebabs in an Istanbul backstreet. Add to the fact that Honest John and that cat thing act like the English gentry, it feels like the film has been made by Americans who don’t understand that there are many different European cultures and you cannot go and mash them up at will and expect it to be realistic. His new star turn is about to make his acting debut. It really has been quite a packed first day of existence for this young wooden boy.
Almost as soon as he starts to sing (horribly), he falls down the stairs on the stage. The audience laughs hysterically, evidently the remarkable ability of a wooden boy having independent limb control wasn’t enough for them to let this go. It also isn’t enough to prevent Stromboli from threatening to end him. But Pinocchio goes back on stage and delivers his hideous song to an adoring crowd. This goes on for a long time. So bored right now.
Jiminy Cricket sees it all and wonders if perhaps this isn’t such a bad career move for Pinocchio after all. Also, we see Geppetto go out to search for Pinocchio as he’s worried. You see! He’s already suffering because of the fairy’s batshit plan. This is all her fault!
Back to Stromboli and he’s eating food straight off a machete. Only baddies eat food straight of a machete. He has quite an anger issue and occasionally rants and raves in a language that again could be a bit Turkish or Greek or Slavic. He’s decided to take the show around the world and locks Pinocchio in a cage to make sure he cannot escape. This first day continues to become more and more absurd. Stromboli leaves. Jiminy Cricket finally turns up to help, rather on the late side being the rubbish conciencitor that he is. Why he hasn’t just stayed with Pinocchio the whole day and done his job properly, God only knows. He’s a cricket for crying out loud. I’m sure he hasn’t got any other urgent business to attend to. Anyway, they’re both sad about the mess they’ve gotten into. They have a sob and blow their nose. On the same handkerchief. Disgusting. Even wood bogies have germs, you know!
Fortunately, the middle-aged Fairy turns up from her dayshift of being a star to sort shit out. She says she’ll give them one more chance. So she damn well should as she’s caused all this commotion in the first place! This is also the famous scene where Pinocchio’s nose gets a hard-on every time he lies, btw. And so, with Mrs Fairy’s help, they escape.
We are now at the Red Lobster Inn where Honest John is still singing that bloody annoying ‘an actor’s life for me song’. No wonder the others look like they’re going insane. Some dude turns up and asks if they would like to make some ‘real money’. He mutters a barely audible plan to them before laughing so insanely that even Honest John looks creeped out. Next morning Pinocchio again trusts Honest John far too easily and agrees to go to a place called Pleasure Island. The Cricket has failed again! They sing the bloody annoying song again, and the film is going around in tedious circles.
Next, we have Pinocchio and a load of bad kids travelling on a boat to an island that’s being led by the very same creepy bad dude that was offering to make Honest John some ‘real money’. The island appears to be a funfair with a creepy entrance gate. All the children start smoking cigars. Don’t quite know where to begin with that except to say I don’t really want my impressionable son watching it. They also destroy stuff and “can be as bad as they want!”
As Pinocchio and some random New York kid play pool (the kid is a remarkable physics-bendingly good player by the way), Pinocchio gets taught how to smoke. Again, I know they’re being “bad”, but this does not translate well into the 21st century. Jiminy Cricket decides enough is enough and starts fighting the naughty boy. About bloody time.
Afterwards, Cricket stumbles off and finds a shed. The shed contains the creepy bad dude and he has TURNED THE CHILDREN INTO DONKEY’S AND IS TRAFFICKING THEM OFF IN CAGES TO A LIFE OF SLAVERY!” Seriously, what the actual fuck is going on here! 1. This is a family film and the children being so distraught is just disturbing and 2. Yeah I get it, the kids have been bad, but society can also be blamed, and some guidance could do wonders for some of them. Turning them into donkey’s and trafficking them into slavery IS NOT A PUNISHMENT THAT BEFITS THE CRIMES!!!! There is not a punishment that will be satisfyingly big enough for Creepy Bad Dude to receive here! Interesting that the original book doesn’t contain any of this so this clearly an addition created by the not at all damaged Disney writers themselves…
“Right guys, how do the boys on pleasure island get their comeuppance?”
“Ok ummmmm… How about they get turned into Donkeys?”
“Right and um, err, they get put into cages and sold into slavery!”
“Well it’s an interesting suggestion George, but that all seems a little dark and, well… horrific. We’ll call that plan B.
(After three silent hours)
“Fuck it, go with the donkey trafficking thingy. Next!”
The New York kid has started turning into a donkey too which understandably creeps out Pinocchio a little bit. Fortunately, ‘Cricket’ manages to save Pinocchio and get him off the island with only having grown a tail and his ears having succumbed to donkeyness. They return home to find Pinocchio’s Father (apparently, they’re at the father / son stage despite only ever having been together for roughly six hours) is not there. A bird drops a note informing them that Geppetto has been swallowed by a whale and is alive in its stomach at the bottom of the sea (I. Can’t. Even…).
“Right guys, now what should Pinocchio rescue Geppetto from to show how brave he is?”
“Ok ummmmm… How about Geppetto gets turned into a donkey and sold into slavery?”
“Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate your enthusiasm George, but I think one donkey trafficking event is enough in one film. Anyone else?”
“Ummmmm… How about… ummmmm… Geppetto… Gets eaten. By a whale!”
“That’s ludicrous. People won’t buy that. Come on guys we can think of something!”
(After three silent hours)
“Fuck it, go with the swallowed by a whale thingy. Now let’s go down the pub.”
Also, at first, I misheard and thought the letter said Geppetto needed rescuing from Wales. I was thinking needing to be rescued from Wales seems a bit extreme, after all, it’s a first world country and the people are generally nice in my experience. Perhaps he’s in a rough Cardiff pub on a Saturday night? But no, ‘whale’.
Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket go to the bottom of the sea to rescue him. Why we are focusing on this nonsense when there’s a donkey-child trafficking ring to be busted, I have no idea. Stuff happens, some fish lead them to the whale, they get inside the whale and end up reunited with Geppetto and his pet goldfish and cat who are inexplicably there too. Yeay. Now enough of this please, what’s going on with bringing that awful creepy bad dude to justice?!
Alas, instead we continue with this far less important storyline, and Pinocchio et al are trying to start a fire in the Whales stomach to make him somehow sneeze and enable their escape. Naturally. it works, and as a result, they’re shot out of the whale’s mouth and into the water. I quite frankly don’t give a fuck about any of this, there’s an island full of donkey children that need rescuing urgently and given urgent medical and psychological treatment here!!!!
They wash up on shore and it seems like Pinocchio is dead. Again, one wooden boy drowning is not going to give me the feels when there’s an island of real children being…. oh forget it, clearly, we’re only supposed to care about this stupid toy-child. Unsurprisingly when they get him home the fairy appears and turns him into a real boy for being brave. Jiminy Cricket gets a badge for his services and has now been promoted to being a full-time consciencitor. He was shit for most of the film and Pinocchio was a dick for most of the film but apparently, we’re supposed to forget about that as quickly as we forget about those poor ex-children who are now presumably in coal mines somewhere.
And the film ends. Just ends. Resolving nothing of any real importance. If you couldn’t tell, this film has pissed me off no end, one presumes that Creepy Bad Dude is still at large making millions out of selling children but at least some old guy gets to have his toy brought to life!!!! It had some positive moments, mostly involving Jiminy Cricket or Honest John but my god did it drag in places. I’m also aware it has fantastic reviews elsewhere and does carry quite a legacy, but I thought the plot was at times ridiculous and overly tenuous. I also don’t believe it has aged at all well and parts I wouldn’t even want my kids watching without a huge disclaimer from me first.
Rating: 3.5/10 (would have been 4.5 but for the unresolved donkey horror)