Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is the latest adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s story of the little wooden puppet who strives to be a real boy, while getting into all sorts of mischief and learning some lessons along the way. We are most familiar with the animated Disney movie from 1940 (which ended up getting a live-action remake just this year), yet Del Toro’s version is a bit distant from its counterpart, being that it is a darker version supposedly closer to the source material. With all the many versions, however, you would probably be tired of seeing yet another film version of Pinocchio. Thankfully, Del Toro’s film is inventive enough to stand out from the rest, as it deals with thematic material, which not even Robert Zemeckis’ Disney remake could not even pull off. I would even say that this may be the best version of Pinocchio I have seen since the original Disney film.
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is set in Italy during the Great War, and woodcarver, Geppetto (Voice of David Bradley) is spending time with his son, Carlo (Voice of Gregory Mann). One night, when setting up a wooden figure of Jesus Christ in a church, a bombing happens that causes Geppetto to lose his son, in which he spends some time mourning. In a drunken rage, Geppetto decides to cut down a pine tree inhabited by a cricket named Sebastian (Voice of Ewan McGregor, who also serves as narrator), and carves a little wooden boy. However, hope comes in the form of the Wood Sprite (Voice of Tilda Swinton), a magical fairy that brings the boy to life, in the hope of serving as a son to Geppetto, while also appointing Sebastian as his guardian in exchange for a wish. The boy indeed comes to life, and proves to be a rowdy puppet, as his curiosity gets him into all sorts of wacky adventures, from becoming a star of a traveling circus run by Count Volpe (Voice of Christoph Waltz) and his monkey assistant, Spazzatura (Voice of Cate Blanchett), to joining a war with his new friend, Candlewick (Voice of Finn Wolfhard), who is the son of the Podesta (Voice of Ron Perlman), all while learning the meaning of life, death, and what it means to be a real boy.
In a way, Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is dark, but not in a sadistic/morbid way. Instead, its dark nature comes from how mature Del Toro takes the story. Its themes of mortality and grief are what help elevate Pinocchio to a height that I never would have imagined, yet one that I appreciated much the same. The way Del Toro and his team handle the story is done so brilliantly that whatever bad taste that Zemeckis’ version left seemed to go away in favor of rich storytelling. It is no surprise that the animation is also crafted to near perfection. Much like the puppet himself, the figures look and feel like living, breathing things, even though they are just puppets made to entertain. Lord knows how long it took to get a film like this made, but you can tell that a lot of hard work was put into making Del Toro’s vision a reality. The afterlife scenes are a real work of beauty, adding to its craft.
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is also fun when it needs to be, as the songs are also well-made, showing what the medium of animation can do. There have been stop-motion musicals aplenty, yet the musical numbers in Pinocchio come off as lively. Though it is hard not to compare the songs from the 1940 Disney film, and I cannot say that the numbers in this version are as memorable either. One thing I can say is that it is refreshing to get a worthy Pinocchio adaptation again, especially one as ambitious a Del Toro’s version.
5 thoughts on “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio – Film Review”
I recently saw this movie. It’s definitely dark, but it has good amount of magic. I haven’t seen the live action Disney Pinocchio movie, but I heard it was a flop. I might watch this one next.
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You’re better off avoiding that one, but who am I to tell you where to go in your journey. All I can do is warn you.
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Yeah, if I do plan to see it, I’m keeping my expectations extremely low. I’m a skeptic about Disney and their live action movies.
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There are some good ones, but ‘Pinocchio’ is one of their lowests.
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If I remembered correctly, there were 3 different Pinocchio movies released this past year.