We gave it an A
Last october, Disney rolled out a 50th-anniversary edition of Sleeping Beauty. It was pure eye candy, one of the best face-lifts to come out of Hollywood — on screen or off — in ages. But as much of a knockout as it was visually, the Mouse House version of the fairy tale felt, well, kind of hokey and square. You never bought for a second that kids raised in the age of WALL?E and Kung Fu Panda would ? react with anything other than rolled eyes.
No one would ever describe Pinocchio as hip. But it’s a lot closer in tone and humor to the digital animated movies of today than Sleeping Beauty‘s saccharine Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip ever were. And the credit for that goes to one man — or, rather, one insect in a top hat and spats — named Jiminy Cricket. As Pinocchio’s wisecracking narrator and conscience, Jiminy is the original smart-ass sidekick. When you crack up at Eddie Murphy’s donkey in Shrek or Robin Williams’ genie in Aladdin, you’re cracking up at a sensibility that first came out of the mouth of Jiminy 70 years ago.
Of course, this new two-disc edition of ? Pinocchio has tons more than just that going for it. The rollicking adventure, about a lonely old toy maker whose wooden puppet comes to life and dreams of becoming a real boy, is tender and timeless. Songs like ”When You Wish Upon a Star” are nostalgically warm and cozy. And my nose would grow if I said the disc’s crisp new digital dolling-up was anything short of a miracle. Pinocchio’s yellow hat, red shorts, and blue eyes pop like Roman candles.
Watching it again for the first time in decades, I was pleasantly shocked at how scary parts of the film are: when Honest John, the evil fox, kidnaps and sells Pinocchio to the gypsy Stromboli; when Stromboli locks his singing puppet in a cage; and when the downright monstrous Cockney coachman smuggles Pinocchio and a group of naughty young boys off to Pleasure Island, where ”they don’t come back as little boys!” (Good Lord, what is that all about?) But you also won’t find a sweeter story or a tidier morality tale about the virtues of being ”brave, truthful, and ? unselfish.” And while you’re pondering all of those big thoughts with your kids — or trying to talk them down off a ledge about what ? ctually happens on Pleasure Island — there are loads of EXTRAS to get lost in. Grown-ups will eat up the commentaries and featurettes about Disney’s band of merry-prankster ?animators, and kids can spend hours with the disc’s interactive puzzles and Pop-Up Video-style factoids. You really couldn’t ask for more. It may only be March, but here is the contender to beat for DVD of the year. A