Friday 9 December 2022

REVIEW: Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

Review by Jon Donnis
Another day and another Pinocchio film. It was only a few months ago I reviewed the terrible Disney Live Action Pinocchio with Tom Hanks in it, that was a stinker, in part due to the usual woke decisions of Disney, to insert identity politics into what is supposed to be a 19th century story. Well this time we have Guillermo del Toro's take on Pinocchio, with a fully animated stop motion version, based on Gris Grimly's Pinocchio design from his 2002 edition of the 1883 Italian novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, this time the film reimagines the story in 1930s Fascist Italy as "a story of love and disobedience as Pinocchio struggles to live up to his father's expectations, learning the true meaning of life."

We start the film with Master Geppetto (David Bradley), woodcarving and living peacefully in 1930s Italy with his very much alive son Carlo. World War 1 has broken out, and planes are often seen above.

One day while helping at the local Church, Geppetto sends his son out to find a flawless pine cone, a plane drops a bomb that destroys the church and kills Carlo, while Geppetto survives.

Over the next 20 years Geppetto mourns the loss of his son, one day he plants a pin cone near Carlo's grave. The grief is too much for Geppetto and he turns to drink. The pine tree grows and a cricket named Sebastian finds a home in the tree.

In a fit of grief and rage Geppetto chops down the tree, and decides to carve a new son out of the wood. He carves the puppet but passes out drunk.

While Geppetto is unconscious, a blue fairy appears, called Wood Sprite (Tilda Swinton), and gives life to the puppet, and names him Pinocchio. She is confronted by Sebastian (Ewan McGregor), she convinces him to guide Pinocchio, and help him become a good boy, in exchange she grants him a wish to become famous if he succeeds.

The next day Geppetto wakes up hungover, and discovers the now living Pinocchio. Shocked and disturbed Geppetto leaves the house to go to the church, Pinocchio follows him and appears in the church while everyone is praying. Imagine their shock when they open their eyes!!

Geppetto decides to send Pinocchio to school the next day, so he can learn how to be a good boy, but on the way, Pinocchio is stopped by ringmaster and puppeteer Count Volpe Christoph Waltz (Christoph Waltz) after his monkey Spazzatura (Cate Blanchett) informs him of a puppet without strings. He convinces Pinocchio to join his circus and makes him sign a contract. Later Geppetto goes to the circus to find and rescue Pinocchio, but in a tussle with Volpe, Pinocchio gets hit by a car and dies, and finds himself in the afterlife.

Death informs Pinocchio that he is immortal and that he will have to go back to the real work once a sand timer as run out. She explains people in the living world will outlive him.

Pinocchio goes back to the real world, but after an argument with Geppetto, Pinocchio returns to the circus, which soon after, leaves town.

What follows is a strange film which turns into more of an adventure, with fascist Italy involved, getting eaten by giant sea creatures, and eventual reunion with Geppetto, and a rather depressing end.

This is a strange film, it is full of songs sung by the various characters, but this is not a kid's film, but it is also not really an adult film. It is just something a bit weird.

The animation is incredible. The voice acting is excellent as you would expect from the names involved. But to me this just does not feel like Pinocchio. And I am not talking about the terrible Disney versions either, which many assume are the originals. I don't know, I can imagine lots of highbrow critics loving this and going on about nuance, and history, but your average film viewer, I am not sure how they will take it.

The film has just finished and I have no interest to watch it again, but I did not hate it. It was just something quite different, and not at all what I expected.

The Good
Excellent animation, an interesting story, and great voice acting.

The Bad
I hate musicals or any films which have singing as part of the story. That's just me though. The ending was also a bit depressing.

This is a hard one to score. The film is not bad, it's not great either in my opinion. I still would say that Matteo Garrone's Pinocchio from 2019 is still the ultimate film version.

If you are a fan of the Pinocchio books and the various films that have spawned from that, then you will be interested to see another take on it.

I score Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio a 6/10

Out now on Netflix.