Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

  • Directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson (Gustafson’s Directorial Debut)
  • October 15, 2022 (BFI) / November 9, 2022 (US) / December 9, 2022 (Netflix)
  • Based on Gris Grimly’s design from his 2002 edition of the 1883 novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

Voice Cast

  • Carlo, Pinocchio-Gregory Mann
  • Sebastian J. Cricket-Ewan McGregor
  • Master Geppetto-David Bradley
  • Count Volpe-Christoph Waltz
  • The Wood Sprite, Death-Tilda Swinton
  • The Podestà (Candlewick’s father)-Ron Perlman
  • Candlewick-Finn Wolfhard
  • Spazzatura-Cate Blanchett
  • The Priest-Burn Gorman
  • The Dottore-John Turturro
  • The Black Rabbits-Tim Blake Nelson
  • Benito Mussolini, Benito Mussolini’s right-hand man, Sea Captain-Tom Kenny

A father’s wish brings a wooden puppet to life.

I am not a fan of the Pinocchio story. Not in a visual form anyway. The more I think about it the more the story just does not do it for me in visual form. It always comes off as cute but I just have trouble getting hooked. Thus this had a bit of a hill to climb to win me over.

The focus of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is loss, grief, and family. It’s a family friendly outing that does not necessarily talk down to anyone making it watchable by adults. It is a beautiful film. Just an amazing bit of stop motion animation with gorgeous character designs and detailed environments. LAIKA is the only one who has done this kind of work any better.

Character designs are fantastic. I give them that. Beyond Pinocchio looking creepy this film in general is just gorgeous. They appear to be crafted to give this more of a dark fairy tale type look rather than something fun and bouncy. The Wood Sprite who gives Pinocchio life and Death who keeps reviving Pinocchio (both voiced by Tilda Swinton) are impressive

The story. Let’s get to that. As said before I can’t say I found the visual presentation of the story of Pinocchio particularly engaging. The Disney film was okay with the live action version by that same company being bad. That issue is not so much Disney or anything they or anyone else has done to it but the story of Pinocchio itself. While it has some worthy themes it’s just nothing that I find engaging no matter who presents it. It could very well be one of those things that works much better in literature than it could in a visual form. Not everything can make it from the page to screen. 

Truth be told in the Disney versions and even here I didn’t find the character of Pinocchio particularly interesting. He is the main character and while I liked to watch his journey unfold I didn’t care about him. He is just overly cute and clueless.

And all the iterations I found the cricket (here called Sebastian J. Cricket) vastly more entertaining. He just blew about every other character out of water. He was charming and witty and personable. As portrayed he was the most interesting person in the room. This is someone you would want as your friend and who makes a good character to entrust with the mission of helping a fake boy grow into a decent person.

Master Geppetto is a bit of an angry drunkard justifiably angry over the death of his son Carlo over an errant bomb. Geppetto has been in an endless stage or mourning for his child and in a fit of grief one evening makes himself a new son. Creepy! For a master woodworker he does a real bad job on Pinocchio. I am not talking about the character lacking paint but rather that it looks like some threatening woodland fairy. It looks like something out of Hellboy which is a bit ironic since Ron Perlman lends his voice to the film.

Count Volpe, a former aristocrat-turned-puppet master and ringmaster living in destitution, is the main heavy of the story. He replaces Mangiafuoco the Fox and the Ringmaster from the original Pinocchio narrative. As villain’s go he is more of a real jerk than danger and no more dangerous than a boss you might hate at work.

Rather than focusing on being a good boy and listening to authority, the focus of this story is being a child and standing up against authority thus the change from the 1800s to fascist Italy. This begs the question: why change the point of the story? Why not craft your own?

War is a good way to explain the loss of Geppetto’s original son but to the extent it gets used it might get lost on the younger children. Heck it could even border on confusing. Would they even know who Mussolini is these days? I know back in my day they didn’t touch too heavily on the totality of the Axis Powers beyond Hitler in school.

The point of standing up to authority is felt strongly with the introduction of The Podestà, a fascist government official, and his son Candlewick when Pinocchio gets drafted into the Italian army. Writing that bit out makes it sound like this movie made a turn into some wacky comedy but not so much. It gets rather dark here at this point. Del Toro does a fine job of driving home the horrors of war and how the ultimately to leadership in war cares more for victory than the individual.

I will not call Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio bad but aside from being beautiful to look at it’s not anything that special. You will certainly make it through if your kids have you watch it but beyond that it’s not a must see.

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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