THE MOVIE GUY — Del Toro’s macabre take on “Pinocchio”

Published 12:03 am Friday, December 9, 2022

“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Netflix

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

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Starring Gregory Mann, Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Cristoph Waltz, Tilda Swinton, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard and Cate Blanchett

Rated PG

 

3 Stars

 

We’ve already had one “Pinocchio” movie this year, so I must admit that I wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear that Guillermo del Toro had yet another version coming out this week as part of his Netflix deal.

I mean, do we really need another “Pinocchio” movie?

Well, it turns out the answer is yes when the film comes to us via the mind of a visionary filmmaker. “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is a far cry from the Walt Disney version.

The essential plot remains the same, but it rejects the kid-friendly tone of the Disney film, bringing back many of the original elements from Carlo Collodi’s 1883 story and adding some macabre del Toro touches, as well.

Perhaps most notably, this new version gives us a preamble where we see the kindly woodcutter, Geppetto (voiced by David Bradley) enjoying his life with his young son, Carlo (Gregory Mann). His idyllic world is literally blown up when his son is killed by a World War I plane that drops a bomb on the village church.

Inconsolable, Geppetto gets drunk one night and carves a wooden puppet to remind him of his dead son. An all-seeing woodland spirit (Tilda Swinton) takes pity on the man and brings the puppet to life, but not before charging a cricket (Ewan McGregor) who is living in one of Pinocchio’s knotholes with helping the puppet-boy learn right from wrong.

The cricket is not very good at his job, and the little wooden boy is repeatedly killed. A sphynx-like creature (also Swinton) won’t usher a non-human into the land of the dead, so she sends him back to the human world each time. A fascist soldier (Ron Perlman) notices the puppet is effectively immortal and decides he’d make an effective soldier in Italy’s World War II army.

So, yeah, that’s a little different from the Disney version.

That’s not to say that this new film won’t appeal to kids, only that there are some adult-level elements that twist the film in distinctive ways. I would argue this is what makes the film so special.

This is a children’s fairy tale with genuine monsters in the weave, as you might expect from del Toro.

The other element of note comes from the stop-motion animation and overall design of the film. This Pinocchio isn’t smoothed over. He’s an awkward and spindly automaton who would never be confused as being anything other than a rough-hewn carving held together by nails.

This film really hammers home the point that Pinocchio is an “other,” which makes his yearning for humanity even more pronounced.

Credit the actors for uniformly solid voice work, especially McGregor and Bradley. Still, it’s the screenplay and the animation that makes “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” so distinctive. I’ll stop short of calling it one of the year’s best movies, but there’s no denying that this haunting movie will stay with you long after the end credits roll.

In other words, yes, apparently, we did need another “Pinocchio” movie.

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Port Arthur Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at sean@seanthemovieguy.com.