GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO (2022)
Netflix streaming version of this classic tale is a darker and far more serious telling of the story. This Pinocchio takes place in fascist Italy where woodworker Geppetto (voiced by David Bradley) loses his ten-year-old son Carlo (Gregory Mann) during the first world war. Decades later he is a lonely man prone to drinking and when in his cups decides to build a new son out of wood. A wood sprite (Tilda Swinton) takes pity and brings the puppet to life dubbing him Pinocchio (also Gregory Mann) and giving charge of the puppet to cricket Sebastian (Ewan McGregor). Soon Pinocchio begins to get lots of attention, especially from greedy circus owner Count Volpe (Christoph Waltz) and the Podestà (Ron Perlman), a fascist official who sees Pinocchio’s ability to come back from the dead as an opportunity to turn him into the perfect soldier for the current war…and did I mention it is a musical?!
Stop-motion animated flick is directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson from a script and story by del Toro with Patrick McHale and Matthew Robbins, based on the original book by Carlo Collodi. On the plus side, the visuals and production design are absolutely stunning, as is the stop-motion animation and FX, absolutely amazing. What holds this version back is the dark and sometimes bleak telling of what was basically a children’s story. Not here, as del Toro and company’s version covers themes of death, loss, war and fascism. Some may appreciate the non-Disney approach, while others may find it very heavy-handed. This Pinocchio rises from the dead, which in all fairness, so did the Disney and book versions. He is killed multiple times, and as he is basically an enchanted being, he returns from the dead to live again. Here it becomes an actual plot point as this would make him a perfect soldier in the eyes of the fascist Podestà. Add in Geppetto’s bitter drunkenness, Pinocchio being trained to fight in a war and fascist Benito Mussolini (Tom Kenny) actually being a character in the film, and this is no kid flick! Not to mention that at 117 minutes it’s a bit too long, especially for it’s far too serious tone, and the musical numbers…yes there are songs…are not very memorable. Visually and technically, it is close to being a masterpiece, and has a great vocal cast. As a movie, though, it’s a bit too dreary, especially at two hours long, to really enjoy. Currently streaming on Netflix!