Pinocchio

When you wish upon a star… chances are that Robert Zemeckis will helm a really good film for you.

Wish granted, because Zemeckis makes what could have been a wooden adventure of a wooden boy, his inventor dad and his fine-suited conscience (who also happens to be a cricket with a good sense of judgment and morals), into a heartfelt tale that pokes fun at contemporary media, yet manages to be a fantastical fairytale.

Staying true to the original Disney animated classic, Pinocchio from 1940 (has it really been that long?), Zemeckis builds enough on top of the story that this mix of live-action and animated version qualifies to be entitled an original production.

For those of us who don’t know the story (gasp!), Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) is about a wooden puppet made by the inventor Geppetto (Tom Hanks) who has been granted life by a Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo). In the span of a very bad day, where he gets thrown out of school, is sold to the circus by sly-fox charlatans (a shabbily-clothed anthropomorphic fox and a cat), and finds himself at a ‘Pleasure Island’, where bad children transform into donkeys, Pinocchio learns the difference between right and wrong.

Pinocchio is a live-action adaptation of a Disney classic done right and which deserved a release on the big screen. In contrast, HIT is a very shabby, uninteresting detective story that even Rajkumar Rao cannot save

Jiminy Cricket (the voice of Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a wayward but honuorable insect — also the narrator’s voice in the film — is Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy-delegated conscience, who helps turn him into a real-life boy.

Poking fun at contemporary social media and even landing a joke at the expense of Chris ‘Pine’ (when a stage name that had a ring of ‘wood’ was being contemplated for Pinocchio), this adaptation doesn’t cling to today’s Hollywood’s woke trends.

Instead of ‘why did you do that’ moments that deviate from actual storytelling, the production subtly mixes inclusivity in what has always been a strong, allegorical story that functions in any era.

Keeping the adventure and the message about right and wrong on the forefront, Zemeckis does what he does best, in a film that should have gotten a wide theatrical release. Sadly though, you can see it today on the little screen that you’re holding in the palm of your hand, if you have a Disney+ subscription.

Streaming on Disney+, Pinocchio stars Tom Hanks, Cynthia Erivo, Giuseppe Battiston, Kyanne Lamaya, Luke Evans, Lewin Lloyd, with the voices of Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lorraine Bracco, Keegan-Michael Key and, for those who love the characters from the animated film, Figaro the Cat, Cleo the Goldfish, and Monstro the Sea Monster.

HIT – The First Case

It seems like this is a week for mediocre, tiring cinema on Netflix. Streaming right now on the platform is the trite, amateurish Rajkummar Rao “thriller” — if it can, by any means wiggle into that genre — with the title HIT – The First Case.

While the inclination of the title for filmmakers might refer to success and, maybe, since it is a thriller, the “hit” might refer to violence, the name is actually an abbreviation for the Homicide Intervention Team.

Intervention sounds just about right; if only someone interceded when the screenplay was being written.

HIT – The First Case is an adaptation of a 2020 Telugu-language film of the same name, by the same filmmaker, Sailesh Kolanu. Although a debuting screenwriter-director when he made the original (which I have not seen), by this version, one would have thought that the screenplay would have been tightened-up… because if this is a better copy, one shudders to think what the original was.

Rajkummar Rao plays Vikram Jaisingh, an inspector at HIT who, according to the official synopsis, is “a troubled but brilliant detective”, “burdened by old demons”, who “sets out to solve two confounding abduction cases — one of his own girlfriend (Sanya Malhotra).”

One can see Rajkummar Rao struggling through the role, as he gives it his all. A better director would have helped the actor fine-tune his performance, and do a sensible overhaul of a very shabby, uninteresting detective story that, somehow, leads to an unconnected sequel.

Starring Rajkummar Rao, Sanya Malhotra, Shilpa Shukla, Dilip Tahil, Milind Gunaji, Akhil Iyer, Arpana Bajpai and Rose Khan, HIT – The First Case is rated suitable for ages 18+ by Netflix, where, heaven knows how, it is (at the time of this writing), ruling the top-10 list

Published in Dawn, ICON, September 18th, 2022

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