Discover more from The Mendez Movie Report
Quick Review: Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
Love Will Give You Life
The following is my review for the film Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio. A reminder, you can click this link to see how I score films when I review them.
During the rise of fascism in Mussolini’s Italy, a wooden boy brought magically to life struggles to live up to his father’s expectations.
We’ve had so many films of the story of Pinocchio that I’ve actually logged a silent 1911 adaptation in my personal Letterboxd. But in the hundred-plus years of versions of the film, its the iconic 1940 Walt Disney animated classic that has stood the test of time as the best of them all.
This year two new major adaptations stepped up to the plate. One was a “live-action” remake of the already mentioned 1940 animated film, which I walked away with more positive than many critics on - and I still didn’t outright like it. The other is a Netflix awards season release with Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.
That’s right, the man known for his love of monsters is releasing his own animated take on the wooden boy whose nose grows when he lies. And as you’d expect its a much darker version of the story set in fascist Italy during World War II and with themes about life, love, fascism, war, death, and even a sprinkle of religion. The animation style is a combination of stock motion and visual effects, and the character designs and certain twists to the story make it very much its own movie that will make it hard to compare to the 1940 beloved classic.
The voice cast for this movie is amazing. Featuring the likes of Ewan McGregor as Sebastian J Cricket, David Bradley as Geppetto, Christoph Waltz as the film’s antagonist, Tilda Swinton playing double roles as the replacement for the blue fairy, Ron Perlman as a fascist government official, Finn Wolfhard as said official’s son, and Cate Blanchett in voice work I was amazed by as she is cast as a literal monkey that doesn’t talk but just makes monkey sounds. And voicing our protagonist Pinocchio is the young actor Gregory Mann.
This has been a passion project for del Toro for over a decade now and it shows in every scene with the craft that was put together to make his vision come to life. Incredible animation work, a beautiful score, great production design, and impressive direction from del Toro and his co-director Mark Gustafson. It all comes together to make a great artistic work that remains entertaining as well.
With this version taking on such heavy themes you’d think it may not be accessible to younger audiences, but the great writing in here is able to delicately keep that balance so every member of the family can enjoy and take something away from this. This thirty-three year old grown man was laughing, smiling, and had a tear in my eye through several scenes.
If I have any nitpicks to make it’d be mainly that the soundtrack isn’t particularly memorable, which is a major mark against it compared to the 1940 movie which features some iconic Disney songs. But nonetheless its a small nitpick that doesn’t take much away from what does work with the movie - which is basically everything else.
But I have to say this, for me, is now the greatest adaptation of this story I’ve seen put to screen. That’s not a diss tot he 1940 movie which remains a certified classic, but del Toro had a vision and damn well he achieved it. This stands out as not just one of the best animated movies of the year, but one of the best movies of the year period. And that’s no lie coming from me.