GUILLERMO DEL TORO'S PINOCCHIO
December 9, 2023 / Netflix
Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Burn Gorman, John Turturro, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett
Academy Award®-winning director Guillermo del Toro and award winning, stop-motion legend Mark Gustafson reimagine the classic Carlo Collodi tale of the fabled wooden boy with a whimsical tour de force that finds Pinocchio on an enchanted adventure that transcends worlds and reveals the life-giving power of love.
Written By Darren
Rating 4.5 out of 5
Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is not only a visually stunning film, but a beautiful retelling of the timeless fairytale that captures the heart of the story audiences know and love, that with del Toro’s unique vision and darkness, brings the story to new heights, resulting in one of the best films of the year.
Every few years, there is always one story that gets remade multiple times in one year, and this year that story was Pinocchio. We got three versions of the classic fairytale this year: one direct to DVD animated version featuring comedian Pauly Shore, the Disney+ live action remake which is among the worst films of the year, and now Guilermo del Toro’s breathtaking vision. It is evident with mere minutes of the film beginning that this is the best adaptation of the story since Disney’s iconic 1940 animated film, which del Toro loved as a child and helped inspire this adaptation, making for one of the greatest animated films in recent memory. del Toro is known for the signature darkness he brings to his films, but he is a filmmaker that understands heart like no other, which makes him the perfect individual to reimagine this timeless story that has enchanted audiences for decades.
By now, audiences know the story of Pinocchio by heart: a wooden puppet is given life, runs off and joins the circus, becomes a slave, and eventually dies saving his father from Monstro the whale before being granted life again. Most adaptations are told in a fairy tale-esque world, but del Toro sets his version of the story in our world in Italy during the First World War. It is an inherently dark backdrop with facism in Italy under Mussolini, but it provides a world for the story’s themes of kindness, honesty and love to ring loudest in since the original Disney animated version that audiences know best.
The real world setting allows this iteration of the story to differentiate itself from all previous adaptations, allowing the story to have new elements while maintaining the blueprint of the classic fairytale. Yes, it is darker for younger viewers, because for example, instead of turning into a donkey at Pleasure Island, Pinocchio is drafted into the Italian armed forces and sent to a training camp for young children. But, this bleak world allows the magic and heart of the story to be incredibly powerful. The lessons of being kind stand out with the violent backdrop of the film’s story, and with everything Pinocchio endures during the film, it makes the power of love that gives this story that unforgettable ending hit you like a tidal wave that is guaranteed to simultaneously break audience’s hearts while warming them with a flood of tears.
The voice cast brings the film to life, led by an incredible voice performance from Gregory Mann as Pinocchio. Mann captures Pinocchio’s naivety and wonder with the new world he is experiencing, bringing that childhood perspective to every scene of the film. His soft and calming voice will warm your heart as you watch Pinocchio embark on his daring adventure, and also break your heart as he learns his lesson about doing the right thing in the film’s final act. It’s a truly remarkable performance from such a young actor that instills the film with the majority of its heart, promising him as a true talent to watch in the years to come.
David Bradley is a wonderful fit for this version of Geppetto, one who is still hurting from the loss of his son while Bradley’s natural raspy voice captures the heartache while struggling to cope with Pinocchio’s eagerness and inquisitiveness. The supporting roles feature the likes of Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett, Burn Gorman, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Christoph Waltz, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson, all of whom are wonderful. But aside from Mann, it is Ewan McGregor who steals the show as Sebastian J. Cricket. It’s one of the most beloved animated characters of all time, and McGregor captures the wisdom of Cricket with true ease, bringing that guiding light to life and becoming the perfect narrator and guide for the audience through the story.
Alexandre Desplat’s musical score is beautiful, capturing the emotion and wonder of the story at every turn. The original songs are great, ranging from fun songs like “Bib Baby II Duce March” which is hilarious, the toe tapping solo number for McGregor “Better Tomorrows”, to the absolutely beautiful “Ciao Papa” which captures the beauty and lessons of the story in a lullaby-esque form.
But the true star of the film is del Toro’s direction and stop motion animation. del Toro has always been a visual director, creating some of the most unique worlds and visual experiences in recent years, but his first foray into the world of animation is nothing short of marvelous. The stop motion animation is some of the best to have ever graced the silver screen, delivering magical animation that captures a lifelike with the puppets used while filming, creating a truly unforgettable experience. And under del Toro’s direction, it truly is one of the greatest achievements in the history of animated filmmaking.
It’s clear why many critics are calling Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio the best animated film of the year, as I have never seen anything like it, making it easily my favourite to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Capturing magic, wonder and emotion like very few animated films have done so in ages, full of magnificent stop motion animation and an outstanding voice cast, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is without question one of the greatest achievements in filmmaking this year that will remind audiences why they fell in love with movies in the first place!