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Uh oh, Pinocchio

September 10, 2022

Disney revisits “Pinocchio” with Robert Zemeckis at the helm and Alan Silvestri providing the score. It’s a recipe for greatness; and yet reviews across the board are negative calling the movie soulless, an awkward combination of reality and CGI and, reading between the lines, an unnecessary remake. When mentioned, the music seems to garner some faint praise for being ‘familiar’ and ‘cozy’.

Alan Silvestri got me hooked on filmmusic and I’ve been a massive fan of his for over thirty years. For me, “Pinocchio” was one of the most eagerly anticipated filmscores this year. And boy does it hurt me to say it doesn’t live up to expectations.

Silvestri’s mannerisms are all over this. There are playful interactions between the woodwinds, there are magical harp and belltree glissandi, Herrmann-esque suspense chords, powerful brass moments and all his familiar chord progressions and melodic conclusions. For the vast majority of its run-time, the score is light and charming, reminiscent of everything Silvestri has done before. Like “Marwen” a few years ago, it plays like a pastiche of all that’s gone before. If that wasn’t your thing then, it certainly won’t be now. Even I am struggling with “Pinocchio“, because the score is as fragmented as timber puppet that’s gone through a wood chipper.

There’s ‘Mickey Mousing’ and then there’s ‘Mickeying the f***ing Mouse out of it’!

Everything I love about Silvestri’s music is here, but it rarely last for longer than a few bars. A nice idea gets going… bam, cut short. Some nice harmonies… plonk! Cool rhythm… zap! Over and over and over again. It feels like the music changes every time the wooden toyboy blinks his timber peepers. I mean, there’s ‘Mickey Mousing’ and then there’s ‘Mickeying the f***ing Mouse out of it’! This prevents the music from gaining any momentum and ultimately hindering the flow of the album. The first half of the album especially sounds like an endless and ever-changing sequence of Silvestri-isms with little coherency.

Things improve vastly in the second half, starting with “Pleasure Island” which moves between a ridiculously cheerful tune for la-la’ing kids and some seriously dramatic brass passages. It’s great stuff, awesome even, but still there’s one particular edit so abrupt that I thought my player had skipped to the next cue; and in the last few seconds it turns overly theatrical with shouty lyrics from the Coachman (he performed a song earlier and I get that it makes sense in the movie, but it feels odd on album).

The cues that follow “Pleasure Island” are more captivating than the ones before. The music finally gets more time to do its thing without constant interruptions. With room to breathe the score comes into its own and we get to enjoy Silvestri’s creation, which is every bit as lush, playful, colourful and energetic as you’d expect.

With room to breathe the scores comes into its own and we get to enjoy Silvestri’s creation, which is every bit as lush, playful, colourful and energetic and you’d expect.

But the “Pinocchio” score isn’t completely off the hook just yet. For all its charm, it’s not memorable. There are themes, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t recite them if my life depended on it. It’s just too…intangible? I wanted it to sit proudly amongst strong melodic scores like “The Witches“, “The Croods“, “Polar Express” etc., but realistically it resides alongside “Marwen” and “The Walk” which are both fine scores, but don’t reach the soaring heights that Silvestri’s music is capable of. And why Zemeckis continues to have Tom Hanks sing in his movies is beyond me. He was the worst thing on the otherwise brilliant “Polar Express” and he is the weakest link here. When he’s blurting out the song “Pinocchio, Pinocchio…” I can actually feel his spit on my face.

Briefly addressing the songs, we have the classic “When you Wish upon a Star” which is beautifully arranged with a performance from Cynthia Erivo. Meegan-Michael Key enthusiastically performs the jolly “Hi Diddle-dee (an Actors Life for Me)”, whilst Benjamin Evan Ainsworth cutely sings on “I’ve got no Strings”. These are songs adapted from the original 1940 “Pinocchio”, but Silvestri and lyricist Glen Ballard penned a few new ones too. “When he was here with Me” is barely a ‘song’ as Tom Hanks grunts a few lines over an otherwise lovely score cue. I already mentioned “Pinocchio, Pinocchio” which has a jolly musical arrangement and admittedly is quite the earworm (for better or worse), but the lyrics rhyme ‘pinocchio’ with ‘gnocchio’ and ‘rice from Tokyo’… ?! Things get better with the cute “I will Always Dance” performed by Kyanne Lamaya. Lastly there’s the jazzy (and very Cockney) “The Coachman to Pleasure Island” performed by Luke Evans, which is too shouty for my tastes.

Alan Silvestri’s “Pinocchio” narrates virtually every twist and turn of the story, presumably in an effort to propel the movie forward, but sadly it feels too fragmented on album, especially during the first half. The main theme, though charming, is not strong enough to hold everything together. However, there’s no doubt about the craftsmanship on display here; production values are all top notch. When the music finally gets to soar, from track 21 onwards and filling the last twenty-something minutes on the album, it’s a delight. (29 tracks, 67 min.)

Article by Pete Simons (c) 2022 Synchrotones

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