Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
A dark, twisted take on the wooden puppet’s fable, set in the background of the two World Wars. This is an adult, stop-motion fairytale!
Genre: Animation / Drama / Fantasy
Director: Guillermo del Toro & Mark Gustafson.
Cast: David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Ewan McGregor, Christoph Waltz, Finn Wolfhard, Ron Perlman, Burn Gorman, Cate Blanchett & Tilda Swinton.
Run Time: 116 min.
US Release: 09 December 2022
UK Release: 09 December 2022
German Release: 09 December 2022
It did not take long for someone new to adapt Carlo Collodi’s most famous fairy tale, after Disney’s live-action adaptation bombed mere four months ago on Disney+. Now Netflix is taking its chance, releasing Guillermo del Toro’s vision of the living puppet’s mythos. Having seen this flick on its release date, on the streaming giant’s platform, I can’t stop but think that Disney, and director Robert Zemeckis, should feel absolutely ashamed for the pile of garbage they produced. So let’s get into my review of Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio!
When a grieving woodcarver named Geppetto, wishes to be given his boy back in a drunken stupor, a mystical creature magically brings a wooden carved boy to life in order to mend his broken heart.
The director’s fascination with Collodi’s tale goes back to when he was still a child. He saw the 1940’s animation by Walt Disney, impassioned by the horror-like elements. It would not be until 2003, as he found Gris Grimly’s character illustration for a 2002 edition of the book, that he felt compelled to start pitching his idea. Contacting Grimly, as well as Gustafson, del Toro set out to write a screenplay for them to direct. In 2012, del Toro took over for Grimly to co-direct, though further complications shelved the project until 2018, when Netflix obtained the rights, financing the director's life-long dream.
The screenplay is fantastic, taking many risks that mostly payout. For one, changing the background setting to the era of fascist Italy, during the Second World War is brilliant, giving the regisseur enough leeway to tell his version of the fable! Darker, with more adult themes included that suit surprisingly well to Collodi’s original fantasy novel, this stop-motion feature sets out to tackle complex subjects, such as self-discovery. Pinocchio is sent out into a world he knows nothing of, needing to find his purpose!
Further topics are that of mortality/immortality; is it the fleeting time that makes our life so precious? Then, of course, there is the matter of death itself and how loss should be accepted. Finally, some aspects definitely will remind audiences of some of del Toro’s earlier work, specifically Pan’s Labyrinth. This is due to the reason, that the filmmaker saw this as a chance to tell the closing chapter of his unofficial “childhood in war” trilogy.
The movie also has a couple of issues, especially concerning the pacing around the second act. Ten to fifteen minutes less would have helped for a smoother middle segment. Personally, I also thought that the musical scenes were unnecessary, as it doesn’t suit this darker, fantasy premise.
The dialogues are well elaborated, carrying a lot of emotional weight; grief, loss, despair, hatred and greed can all be heard through conversations. Even the cricket, meant to be the marionette’s consciousness, takes the job because he is promised something in return.
David Bradley lends his fantastic voice to this version of Geppetto, which might just be my favourite one. The character is a fleshed-out human being, marked by life and left broken after the tragic loss of his boy. The opening sequence, showing audiences the different person he used to be, while his son Carlo was still alive, is painfully bitter-sweet.
Pinocchio is this piece of unfinished carved wood Geppetto started working on, during a night full of alcohol. This version is meant to resemble Frankenstein’s monster, as this unnatural being, who has been mystically given life to. At first uncontrollable and incredibly irritating, that characteristic serves as a learning curve for the puppet. Pinocchio is voiced by Gregory Mann, who does a terrific job! He also voices Carlo, Geppeto’s late son, named after the author of this children's fairytale.
Sebastian J. Cricket, acted by Ewan McGregor, brought added a lighter tone, to the adult plot. He is the comic relief in the picture, though not in a silly way.
Then there is Christoph Waltz, who gave his voice to Count Volpe, an amalgamation of Mangiafuoco, the fox and the cat. This character is devious, sadistic, as well as right out scary at times. Waltz did a magnificent job!
The camera work is fabulous, using dark motives plus colours to full effect. The lighting has a natural-looking yellow hue, meant to replicate the colour of the sun. The cinematography also makes use of some light horror elements, especially during the carving of the marionette, which resembled a scene from Frankenstein.
This is a stop-motion animated feature-length film, which is rare nowadays. Yes, the look reminds a little of Laika Studios' movie, though, it has an absolutely unique aesthetic. The attention to detail is fascinating, with the character of Pinocchio resembling more of a piece of unfinished carved wood. The water sequences on the boat, just like the picturesque scenes of the town look incredibly realistic.
The score, composed by Alexandre Desplat, only uses wood instruments, such as the violin, guitar, piano or harp, to connect sound to Carlo Collodi’s book from 1883. The melody is a representation of the innocent, yet pure heart of the wooden boy.
Verdict: Netlfix’s newest release is a project that has been in the making for over ten years. The creators poured a lot of heart, thoughts, as well as hard work into it, which one can blatantly see! The plot has del Toro’s fingerprints all over, including his trademark dark, fantasy aesthetic and the childhood wartimes subject. The voice acting is unparalleled, with Gregory Mann nailing it as both, Carlo and the wooden puppet. While this Geppetto himself is my favourite incarnation of the character! The stop-motion animation is beautiful, having a slight gothic touch. The colour plus tone is kept intentionally dark. The music only uses wood instruments, as a homage to the 1883 novel. Is it derivative of already existing stories? Yes, definitely! But that does not take away from the enjoyment, in fact, it improves on things we are already familiar with. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio deserves an 8.5 out of 10.
Have you seen this incarnation of Collodi’s character yet? If not, it is available to see on Netflix. Let me know if you agree with my review & don’t forget to subscribe.