Forget what you know about the story of "Pinocchio," and then please, please, PLEASE forget about the recent Disney+ live-action remake from earlier this year.
I entered the theater thinking to myself: Is this what we need, another Pinocchio movie?
I left the theater, shocked and elated that I had just seen without a doubt one of my top overall (animated or otherwise) movies of 2022.
"Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio" is a stellar, stunning achievement in visual storytelling. From a story perspective, it somehow clarifies some of the original themes from the 1881 book by Carlo Collodi, themes that are all but lost in the Disney animated (and live-action) versions that followed. Things are placed in a real-world context, and much more depth is given to the character of Geppetto (voiced by David Bradley) and we understand the heart-breaking reason he wishes this wooden puppet to life in the first place.
Guillermo del Toro has always been a ground-breaking, visionary director, and his version of "Pinocchio" raises the bar in the world of stop-motion animation. It's matched with what could be an Academy Award nominated score by Alexandre Desplat (it's definitely deserving) and eye-popping cinematography from Frank Passingham (whose work on his last film, "Kubo and the Two Strings" was masterful in its own right).
We all know the framework of the story of Pinocchio (Gregory Mann), the wooden puppet brought to life, who wishes he was a real boy. But what del Toro reveals is that Disney left out the best parts.
To be expected, this is a much darker, dirtier world than Disney has ever wanted to depict in a family film. Jiminy Cricket, for example - known as Sebastian J. Cricket in this version and voiced by Ewan McGregor - isn't providing Pinocchio with wisdom out of the kindness of his heart this time around. He's actually involved for more selfish reasons. The movie begins with tragedy, and is set against the backdrop of Nazi fascism. Yeah, this isn't your grandfather's Pinocchio.
Talk about having no strings: There's nothing Guillermo del Toro can't seemingly do. If you aren't interested in seeing another Pinocchio movie, I hear ya. But the draw of this film is in the first half of its title.
"Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio" is one of the year's very best films, a magical and moving fable with real stakes and heart-breaking characterizations. With such an old and well-known story at its center, it's safe to say that watching this version is to experience the tale for the very first time. That in and of itself is a remarkable achievement, but then again this movie is jampacked full of them.
Genre: Animation, Drama, Family.
Run Time: 1 hour 57 minutes.
Starring (voices of): Gregory Mann, David Bradley, Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett, Burn Gorman, Tilda Swinton, Tim Blake Nelson, John Turturro, Christoph Waltz.
Based on the book "Pinocchio" by Carlo Collodi.
Co-Written and Directed by Guillermo del Toro ("Nightmare Alley," "The Shape of Water," "Crimson Peak," "Pacific Rim," "Pan's Labyrinth," "Hellboy").
"Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio" is in limited theatrical release and comes streaming to Netflix on Friday, December 9th, 2022.
See Tom's interview with Guillermo del Toro below:
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