To knock this "Pinocchio" update would be blasphemous, especially since everything it offers is sweet and syrupy, just what the target demo expects. Like a warm-and-fuzzy version of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "Geppetto" benefits from extremely detailed visuals, snappy pacing and cute-as-buttons tykes. There are also plenty of magical Mouse House touches: wands, glitter and a splendid palette full of every color imaginable.

To knock this “Pinocchio” update would be blasphemous, especially since everything it offers is sweet and syrupy, just what the target demo expects. Like a warm-and-fuzzy version of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” “Geppetto” benefits from extremely detailed visuals, snappy pacing and cute-as-buttons tykes. There are also plenty of magical Mouse House touches: wands, glitter and a splendid palette full of every color imaginable.

The lonely Geppetto (Carey) will do anything for the children of Villagio, but he constantly yearns for a lad or lass of his own. The Blue Fairy (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finally grants his wish one evening, and Pinocchio (Seth Adkins) comes alive.

But Geppetto’s parenting skills are a bit rough: He doesn’t know how to discipline, he’s too uneasy making decisions and he insists that his favorite plaything, now personified, become a woodcarver.

Another hurdle is Stromboli (Brent Spiner), a callous puppeteer who nabs Pinocchio in order to make him a star in a traveling show. Dad then embarks on a quest to find sonny boy, even though he has already labeled him a disappointment and considered “returning” him.

On his journey, Geppetto visits several bizarre worlds. Professor Buonragazzo (Rene Auberjonois) “designs” perfect, made-to-order offspring; Lazardo (Wayne Brady) is a terrible magician who claims failure comes from pressure; and Ring Leader (Usher Raymond) is a charismatic circus entertainer who allows youngsters to do what they want — before he turns them into mules.

But, of course, this is Sunday night, so it all works out in the end. With some hasty soul-searching, gee-whiz dialogue and a lot of hugging, papa realizes his mistakes, and the importance of independence remains intact.

Carey has become one of the Alphabet web’s biggest draws, but using him as a singing-and-dancing daddy wannabe was certainly a gamble. He pulls it off, though, because of a casual disposition and some crafty techniques: helmer Tom Moore and writer David Stern know that hummable music and lively chatter can conceal some of the sitcom vet’s weaker points.

And thank goodness for Schwartz; his playful collection of songs adds a mound of class to a handsome and finely acted production. The most memorable of the bunch are the energetic “Toys,” the quick and clever “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Pleasure Island.”

Also solid is a whimsical and, to an extent, weird supporting cast. Spiner brings robust enthusiasm to his role as the dastardly villain, Auberjonois is kooky as the “kid creator” and Raymond steals the show with a delightfully staged soft-shoe bit. The only blip is Louis-Dreyfus, who doesn’t stand out the way flighty pixies usually do.

Tech credits are tops all around, highlighted by Charles J. H. Wood’s attractive production design and Hope Hanafin’s bright and dynamic costumes.

Geppetto

(TELEPIC; ABC, SUN. MAY 7, 7 P.M.)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by James Pentecost Prods., Karz Entertainment and Walt Disney Television. Executive producers, Drew Carey, Mike Karz, James Pentecost; co-executive producer, Peter Green; supervising producer, Ronald E. Frazier; producer, Ted Zachary; director, Tom Moore; writer, David I. Stern, based on a story by C. Collodi.

Crew

Camera, Stephen M. Katz; production designer, Charles J. H. Wood; editor, Virginia Katz; music and lyrics, Stephen Schwartz; conductor, Robert Billig; costume designer, Hope Hanafin; casting, Jason La Padura, Natalie Hart, Laura Adler. 120 MIN.

With

Geppetto ..... Drew Carey Blue Fairy ..... Julia Louis-Dreyfus Stromboli ..... Brent Spiner Prof. Buonragazzo ..... Rene Auberjonois Pinocchio ........ Seth Adkins Ring Leader ..... Usher Raymond Signora Giovanni ..... Ana Gasteyer Magician Lazardo ..... Wayne Brady He definitely strains for the high notes, but Drew Carey makes the best of his very limited vocal abilities in ABC's bouncy "Geppetto." Then again, he's not really the main attraction here --- that honor goes to Steven Schwartz' terrific songs, which bubble up with witty rhymes, catchy hooks and enough genuine happy-go-luckiness to make Walt Disney mighty proud. Like the composer's previous projects ("Pocohantas," "Prince of Egypt"), the kiddies will be satisfied, and their parents will also smile widely.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more
Post A Comment 0