'Pinocchio': almost real

July 26, 1996|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

It would be a lie to say "The New Adventures of Pinocchio" isn't a stunning technological achievement.

Live action flirts with fantasy in the newest take on the classic tale. The latest in high-tech puppetry, provided in part by Jim Henson's Creature Shop, and an army of artists went into creating Pinocchio and his friends and bringing them to life on the screen. Pinocchio, voiced by "Home Improvement's" Jonathan Taylor Thomas, blends marvelously into scenes where he is surrounded by people and dense surroundings, but a little TTC less convincing in scenes without constantly moving reference points.

Despite occasional awkwardness, the animators did create a being that gives the impression of a living, breathing "real boy." The movie's line between illusion and reality begins in Gepetto's (Martin Landau) workshop, which is authentic, yet eerie.

Intensely realistic puppets hang from strings, eyes wide and appendages unpredictable. Yet, none of these creations compare to the hauntingly lifelike Pinocchio. He's a wooden E.T., with the same primitively cute speech patterns and endearingly clumsy gait. Landau has the lovable but stern fairy-tale oldster down. He develops a real rapport with Pinocchio, complete with believable interaction, despite the challenge of acting with an inanimate object.

Some of the old familiar characters are here intact, including Lampwick and Lorenzini. Others are slightly updated: Monstro the sea monster gets a personality transplant, and Jiminy Cricket is now Pepe, a '90s-upped resilient insect who spouts cheeky vignettes, including a particularly funny one about pine-scented air-fresheners.

The film is too long (the little girl next to me asked to see her mom's watch about five times); some of the images are potentially frightening, and the end is a little too sun-drenched and slo-mo sweet. But "The Adventures of Pinocchio" still packs a sly moral punch and is the ultimate virtual reality fairytale.

'The Adventures of Pinocchio'

Directed by Steve Barron

Starring Jonathan Taylor Thomas, Martin Landau

Released by New Line Cinema and Savoy Pictures

Rated G

Sun Score ** 1/2

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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