“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” stars Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Ron Perlman, Cate Blanchett, Finn Wolfhard, Christoph Waltz, and Tilda Swinton. Released on November 9, 2022, the film is about a wooden puppet who comes to life and learns the meaning of life.
The film was directed by Guillermo del Toro, who also directed films such as "Mimic", "Hellboy", "Pacific Rim", and "The Shape of Water". It is co-directed by Mark Gustafson. It is based on the 1883 novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. It wasn't that long ago when we got another film adaptation of "Pinocchio", courtesy of Disney+. Long story short, you're better off watching the 1940 animated version. So it's surprising to see another adaptation of the classic tale come out so quickly. However, this film looks more interesting than Disney's latest remake. The main reason is Guillermo del Toro, who continues his remarkable streak of providing high-quality and darkly fantastical movies. What's even better is that he's making his directorial debut in the world of animation. The filmmaker is no stranger to being involved in animation, having produced "The Book of Life" and created the "Tales of Arcadia" shows for Netflix and DreamWorks Animation. He also executive produced a few DreamWorks Animation movies in the 2010s, including "Puss in Boots", the "Kung Fu Panda" sequels, and "Rise of the Guardians". If those things aren't enough to convince us he's ready to direct an animated feature, I don't know what will. Because of this, I was ecstatic to see how his take on the beloved classic compares to the other versions. So was the film able to stand out above the other animated movies, or is it another adaptation that deserves to be firewood? Let's find out.
The story centers on Geppetto (Bradley), a heartbroken woodcarver who recently lost his son in 1930s Italy. To cure his depression, Geppetto sets out to carve a wooden puppet out of a tree. One night, a spirit arrives and brings the puppet, now named Pinocchio (Mann), to life, much to Geppetto's shock. With a cricket named Sebastian (McGregor) acting as his guide, Pinocchio goes on a coming-of-age journey to make his dream of being a real boy come true. During the journey, he encounters several different characters, including a vicious puppet master named Count Volpe (Waltz), a fascist government official (Perlman), and the Wood Sprite (Swinton).
The thing to know about this adaptation is that it's nothing like the Disney version you and your kids grew up watching. Yes, it's animated and features some musical numbers, but it's far from what Walt Disney delivered years ago, except for the whole "children being turned into donkeys" thing. In classic del Toro fashion, the new adaptation sticks closely to the book's tone by combining fantasy elements with its dark themes. So even though the film is rated PG, it does feature a few moments that may bring some mild discomfort to younger kids. So keep that in mind before you select this as your next family outing. Aside from that, how does this latest version of the classic book compare with the previous adaptations? Well, I can tell you this: this is miles better than the Disney live-action remake.
When it comes to the story, there's nothing in the narrative that we haven't seen in the other adaptations before. However, what makes the plot stand out from the rest is its execution and direction. The narrative involves Pinocchio's journey to be a real boy and avoid temptations that'll slow him down, including performing for Volpe. But it offers much more than that. It's a story about humanity and the aspects of life that came with it, both good and bad. One of them, in particular, is love. Outside of Pinocchio's adventure, the film follows Geppetto feeling affected by the loss of his son during the war. As a result, his will to love died alongside his son. With the arrival of Pinocchio, Geppetto is given the opportunity to regain the love he's lost. The movie offers a heartfelt and profoundly poetic reflection of everlasting love. Just because someone you loved is gone, it doesn't mean the love is gone too. It's as eternal as the wooden puppet himself, no matter how bad life can get.
Not only were these messages well-handled, but the movie also has a perfect amount of dazzle and emotion in its visuals and storytelling to please adults and maybe some older kids. It also isn't afraid to represent some of its darker elements like war and even death, primarily due to Guillermo del Toro. I can quickly tell that the film has del Toro's fingerprints all over the place regarding its presentation and tone. It has a sense of gloom and despair in its lighting, backgrounds, and themes, but it also offers a sense of wonder in the darkness within. It's usually the best way I can describe del Toro's style. Additionally, his script, which he co-wrote with Patrick McHale, provided a fulfilling mixture of light-heartedness and sorrow. Unfortunately, my only complaint about the story is that it ran a couple of minutes too long. Besides that, the plot is a refreshing and wondrous take on the classic source material that's both fun and ambitious. It also has a beautiful musical score from Alexandre Desplat.
Another way I can tell that del Toro is involved is the all-star cast. Some of the actors worked with del Toro in his previous works, including Ron Perlman and Burn Gorman, so I'm not surprised to see them working with the filmmaker again in "Pinocchio". It's also unsurprising that the actors were stellar in their vocal performances. Newcomer Gregory Mann provides the voice of the titular wooden puppet. Despite being close to getting irritating during a couple of scenes, Mann managed to deliver plenty of charm and joy to the mischievous yet innocent puppet. Ewan McGregor also did very well with his performance as Sebastian. He offers a unique take on the source material's character and delivers some surprisingly decent humor. In addition, David Bradley was compelling as Geppetto regarding his character arc, and Christoph Waltz was delightfully wicked as Count Volpe.
Finally, we have the film's stop-motion animation. This is one of the reasons I wanted to see "Pinocchio", and I'm glad it didn't disappoint. The animation gives the story a new coat of paint by reflecting its stunning backgrounds and character designs that are distinctive and detailed. It has the old-fashioned flair of a classic stop-motion short but with the del Toro flavor added to the mix. The way it's represented shows that del Toro understands the values of cinema, both in live-action and animation.
Overall, "Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio" is a dazzling and highly heartfelt adaptation that perfectly combines the art of stop-motion with del Toro's signature style. The runtime is only a minor issue I can get behind, as it isn't enough to distract me from the majesty of its technical aspects and storytelling. From its direction for the story to the stellar animation, the movie is the best adaptation of the source material since the Disney animated version from 1940. I highly recommend this stop-motion gem to the fans of del Toro's other works and the source material.