‘Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio‘ should be seen as not only the best Pinocchio film there ever has been, but the best Guillermo del Toro film as well.
It’s the story everyone knows: man makes a wooden boy, the wooden boy is brought to life, and the wooden boy learns what it is to be “real.” It’s a story that has been done over and over (four times in the past three years) to the point where the very understandable, “Do we need this?” question begins to arise. However, when it comes to the aptly named Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, the story everyone knows and loves is flipped entirely providing an answer to the question of, “Do we need this?” with a resounding yes.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio starts earlier but mostly takes place years after the tragic loss of Carlo, the son of Gepetto (David Bradley), a woodworker in a small Italian village during the Great War. In a drunken rage, Gepetto chops down the tree next to his son’s grave site and uses the wood to craft a wooden boy to fill the void left by Carlo. The wooden boy is not created with love, but with hate for a world that has taken everything from him. Gepetto is not careful with his craft, but is reckless, and leaves much of the boy unfinished. While Gepetto is asleep on the floor, a wood sprite (Tilda Swinton) visits the lifeless wooden boy, giving him a chance to fill that void in Gepetto’s life. From this, Pinocchio (Gregory Mann) is born.
Just like he was created, Pinocchio is reckless. He doesn’t follow the rules and refuses to be obedient, thus giving his conscience and the film’s narrator Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor) an even more difficult time. This carefree nature that Pinocchio brings into the world doesn’t sit well with the more dignified members of the town which is now, like all of Italy, under the rule of fascist leader Mussolini. Gepetto is eventually approached by Podesta (Ron Perlman), one of the fascist leaders in the town, commanding the woodworker to make Pinocchio an obedient Italian boy just like his own son Candlewick (Finn Wolfhard).
Obedience is the one thing Pinocchio doesn’t want to do, so when he is approached by Count Volpe (Cristoph Waltz), it is easy for the ringmaster to seduce Pinocchio into joining the circus. This causes Gepetto to be angry at the boy, screaming at him that he needs to be more like Carlo, before angrily calling him a burden. Because of this, Pinocchio runs off on tour with the circus asking Count Volpe to send his share of the earnings to Gepetto in order to make up for his mistakes. Gepetto realizing what he has done sets out with Sebastian to find Pinocchio and bring him home.
When it was announced that this version of Pinocchio would be officially titled Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, we should have known what was coming. The magical director of fantasy films such as The Shape of Water and Pan’s Labyrinth brings the same fantastical elements to his version of Pinocchio creating the most beautiful looking, sounding, and feeling film of the year. Top to bottom, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a technical masterpiece. A beautiful and sweeping score from Alexandre Desplat (who recently worked with del Toro in his Oscar-winning The Shape of Water) grabs your attention early and often, and the authenticity brought by Desplat, who used all woodwind instruments, doesn’t go unnoticed.
The voice work from the entire cast also helps to elevate the film. As we have seen with upcoming projects, bad voice performances can cause all hope to be lost in what would otherwise be wonderful work (Chris Pratt as Mario, we’re looking at you). In Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, every voice is perfectly cast, and every actor truly gives it their all. Whether it be a mystically curious Gregory Mann, a whimsically assured Ewan McGregor, or a sorrowfully regretful David Bradley, every voice in this film did more than just speak their lines, they lived in this world just as much as the characters they portrayed.
However, what truly sets this film apart from others is the detail and love put into the art of stop-motion animation. del Toro, who is an avid defender of animation being an art form and not a genre, brought together a crew to give this version of Pinocchio a vision like no other. Co-directed by the animation director of Fantastic Mr. Fox, Mark Gustafson, and produced by The Jim Henson Company, del Toro made sure to bring together the right people to bring his vision of Pinocchio to life. From the perfectly imperfect puppets and the vast sets, what del Toro and his crew created will progress the art of animation just like Snow White, Toy Story, and Into the Spider-Verse have done before.
The changes that del Toro made to this story give the film a darker and more realistic approach than any previous version has dared to attempt. The third act of this film goes to a very dark place dealing with death and sacrifices. By the time the credits roll, what del Toro does with this story might take you by surprise, but what del Toro is able to convey with just a few changes is why Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio should be seen as not only the best Pinocchio film there ever has been, but the best Guillermo del Toro film as well.
Likely: Best Picture, Best Animated Feature, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects
Should be Considered: Best Director, Best Cinematography
Release Date: In Select Theaters Now; December 9, 2022 on Netflix
Where to Watch: In Select Theaters; Netflix
Loves movies, the awards season, and this dog (even if he isn’t his).
Favorite Director: Bo Burnham
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