Going Old School this week, as opposed to....

Pinocchio (1940)

Who didn't go to school at all.

Soundtrack/Score/Music: 7

Story/Screenplay/Narrative: 5.5

Characters/Characterization/Voice-Acting: 7

Art Direction/Design: 9.5

Themes/Archetypes/ Artistic Interpretation: 6

From RM:

This is a hard one to grade. It's the 2nd Disney film, chronologically, and isn't complete shit, so it has enjoyed the sort of mythos that Snow White and Bambi have enjoyed. This makes it harder to look at it objectively, and delve into the problems of this film, which as you can see from above, are mostly plot based.

So, plot. Pinocchio is the story of, well, Pinocchio, the little wooden boy who is blessed with life by The Blue Fairy, and embarks on a quest to become a "real boy" (Even though he can cry, sneeze, and do everything short of bleed) to please Gepetto, his carver/father. In order to achieve the hemophilia he so desires, he is told to behave and learn right from wrong, and to this end, is appointed a shifty bum of an insect named Jiminy Cricket to be the physical manifestation of his non-existent conscience. Then Pinocchio embarks on a series of misadventures that take him through the dark underbelly of show business, the burgeoning donkey slave trade, the perils of playing pool (with a capital P and that stands for....wait), and learning how to scald the trachea of a massive whale. He then sacrifices his life to save Gepetto, and is granted Realhood, and much dancing and clockwork music ensues. Cue credits.

I have three problems with this film, which I shall call the three Ps: Plot, Pinocchio, and Pa-Jiminy Cricket. The plot, while not as deficient as it's rating may suggest, is wounded by its jarringly episodic nature. Fade to blacks, characters disappearing forever, and disjointed segues from one moment to the next make it difficult to follow anything other than our hero and his mite mate. Which brings us to problems 2 and 3. Pinocchio is about as interesting as, well, a piece of wood. He doesn't really do much, and until the very end, most of his problems are solved for him, which, if it is the point, seems to be counterintuitive to the whole "know right from wrong", concept. So, his main tool in that growth is Jiminy "Face of the Franchise" Cricket. And don't get me wrong, "When You Wish Upon A Star"deserves every bit of love it gets as an iconic song. However, Jiminy is originally created as a character who is a bit of a bum, and it seems like his growing up is just as important as Pinocchio's. But he quickly becomes Mr. Moral Absolute, and ends up relying on the help of others just as much as Pinocchio. Also, while Cliff Edwards (the voice of JC) is wonderful for the songs, his folksy tones and "Aw Shuckses" takes away from a character that could have been even more than he was.

From Wiry:

I remember, once upon a time, thinking that Pinocchio was a very scary movie. There's Monstro, of course, but I think the most terrifying bits are the ones that show the mutability of the human frame. In other words, mostly the bits with the boys turning into asses. But also, the whole nose thing would be pretty unnerving if there wasn't a vacant-eyed, transparent blonde with reality-altering powers hanging about too.

One of the things I found myself enjoying this time around was the odd sort of world in which the story takes place - there's little bits of everything. You have the Blue Fairy, who looks like Snow White gone platinum, alongside all these other human characters who are far closer to caricatures with their big, bulbous noses or buck teeth. Then you have the anthropomorphic kitties and foxes and crickets who have odd relationships with inanimate women. It's a world where magical things can happen either via straight-up magic (the fairy's) but also hard drugs (hee-haw). So, lots of fun stuff going on there.

I'm not a huge fan of the film on the whole, though. As RM touches on above, its episodic nature renders things a bit choppy. One gets the feeling the story is marching off to some new thing before the previous thing is even complete (note, for example, that none of the problems of the antagonists are ever really solved - Stromboli continues on his merry way, the Coachman absconds with all those naughty boys to the salt mines, and Monstro lives to fight another day). Sure, P manages to learn how to be an obedient, brave, ideal, blah blah boy, but he certainly doesn't learn how to finish things. On the other hand, a little boy can't really be expected to solve every issue that comes along, and maybe it's just my modern temperament that drives a desire for the plot to be wrapped up in a cute little package.

But, you know what? Oh well. It doesn't change the fact that the whole thing's pretty uneven (note the lack of any songs whatsoever in the second half - where's Monstro's rousing bass soliloquy on the lonely life of a whale?) and I really, really hate Jiminy Cricket. Maybe it's because his old-fashioned folksiness grates on me, and he also had a presence in the abomination that is Fun and Fancy Free (indeed free of both fun and fancy). Would it have been so hard to go a little further with the womanizing bum thing? Ah, well. We'll always have Honest John.

Final Grade: B

Final Rankings:
1.) The Lion King
2.) The Hunchback of Notre Dame
3.) Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs
4.) Lady and The Tramp
5.) The Great Mouse Detective
6.) Pinocchio
7.) The Jungle Book
8.) Mulan
9.) Fun & Fancy Free


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