"Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
Pinocchio has been adapted numerous times on the screen. One of the very first times was in 1940, when Walt Disney gave his family-friendly take on the story, making it an instant classic that is still beloved today. From there, many directors and studios have taken on the tale of the wooden boy, but I don't think any take on this tale is similar to "Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio". a stop-motion animated picture that take a completely different take on the characters and the story. Not only is this the best Pinocchio film since Disney's take on it in the 40's, but it adds a sense of depth and emotional value that will resonate with every viewer in one way or another.
The movie follows many of the same basic beats as the other Pinocchio films, with his being created by Geppetto, having a conscience in the form of a cricket, being corrupted by a puppeteer and his traveling show, etc. However, this movie contains incredibly dark moments included as well, including Geppetto's son dying due to the war in Fascist Italy, Pinocchio being enlisted in the war, and much more that I will not mention due to risk of spoiler, as well as numerous instances of death, which is heavily focused on here. Del Toro has been cited to say that this film isn't for families, and I have to agree with him here. However, because it is able to add these dark and emotional moments, it adds that perfect punch for the film to really get the emotion present in the film.
I think the performances here are great. David Bradley and Gregory Mann do a great job at portraying Geppetto and Pinocchio, respectively. They have wonderful on-screen chemistry together, and Mann is just great at oozing childlike energy and charisma. I would say Mann delivers perhaps one of the best performances as Pinocchio in history, perhaps the best. Sure, the Pinocchio present in the Disney film is wonderful, but there is something about Mann's performance that made me fall in love with it more and more as the film progressed.
At the same time, I think Ewan McGregor does a wonderful job at bringing Pinocchio's conscience to life, giving this iconic character his own little spin on it. It is McGregor's job to really make the viewer fall in love with the character, who is smarter than perhaps any other character in this film. He's a crack-up in many scenes, but is also able to bring the viewers to tears in some scenes. Del Toro also recruits talents such as Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman, Tilda Swinton, and Christoph Waltz to play the minor characters here in the movie. While they may not have as big of a role as the other characters mentioned here, I think they all bring something special to their performance.
In cinematic history, this is the longest stop-motion picture, and I think it is absolutely beautiful from beginning to end. Even though this movie does nearly everything right and deliver such a fascinating cinematic experience, the cinematography and shots blew me away throughout the entire film. From the scenes of the countryside and the village to the way the characters, especially Pinocchio, are able to seamlessly move and interact with the things around them, is expertly crafted and made me feel like I was watching an actual animated film on paper.
Del Toro is known for making films that rely on social commentary to tell a story, and this film is no different. Whether it is dealing with the topic of grief and loss, war, or acceptance, he is able to blend all of these matters together to make a film that provides all the right messages to the viewer. Consider the scenes where Pinocchio is sent off to training camp where he must get ready to fight in the war. Pinocchio and his friend, Candlewick (Finn Wolfhard) are excited for this new opportunity and finally be able to experience this great thing called war. However, their expectations are very quickly turned upside down as they realize the realities of war is not all cracked up to be. It forces these young characters to mature at a very quick pace, which is the unfortunate circumstance of loss of innocence. However, Del Toro does it so well that it leaves a lasting impact on the viewer for the rest of the film.
All in all, Del Toro really crafted something special with this film. He took the age-old tale of this wooden boy and put his own dark and familiar twist on it. Even though this movie may not be directed towards kids, there is no doubt there is heart and a childlike innocence present here throughout this movie. Through everything Pinocchio and his father go through, there is still that little light at the end of the tunnel, which is illuminated by the hearts of our two main characters. This film is lovely to watch, and I applaud Del Toro for everything he was able to accomplish here.
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