Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Review: A dark, gritty animated epic

During Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Netflix, Disney’s 1940 version of the old tale, doesn’t come to mind much. The House of Mouse movie I was thinking of was Bambi.

The Shape of Water harkens back to the good old days of tough-love family movies with lots of tears and big emotional payoffs in his stunning stop-motion animated film, co-directed by Mark Gustafson.

movie review


Running time: 117 minutes. Dec. 9 on Netflix PG (Contains dark material, violence, danger, crude humor, and brief smoking.)

At least Bambi’s poor mother wasn’t a bomb victim in World War I. So Geppetto (voiced by David Bradley) loses his 10-year-old son Carlo when the small-town Italian church he’s staying in explodes.

It is a very sad and unexpected beginning, and with it our inclinations are frustrated. We’re plunged into del Toro’s yet another terrifying world of magic, no-nonsense hucksters, and hard-learned lessons.

The grieving father plants a pine tree on little Carlo’s grave and gets drunk in despair. A few years later, one night, a woodcarver made a boy doll out of his body.

“I’m going to make Carlo out of this damn pine again!” he screams into the night. Not so when you dream of a star.

A sad Geppetto (voice of David Bradley) carves Pinocchio (Gregory Mann) out of a pine tree.

As Geppetto sleeps, a sphinx-like goddess (Tilda Swinton) appears and revives his creations, while a nomadic insect tells Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor) to be a good piece of wood. provides learning.

This Pinocchio, unlike Disney’s, does not look like a colorfully dressed man, but instead is 100% pure wood. He would disappear on my living room floor. And somehow, even though he’s more ACE than GAP, Pinocchio is the cutest animated person on screen since Paddington. Helping to make him a favorite is the voice work of British child actor Gregory Mann, who is as innocent as he is.

Pinocchio is the cutest animated creature since Paddington.
Pinocchio is the cutest animated creature since Paddington.

However, even though Pinocchio is cute, the animated world he lives in is sharp, green and dangerous. Many of Pixar’s recent movies and events are on the rise. Del Toro is tooth and nail.

It’s also a musical. Composer Alexandre Desplat has written some great tunes for Pinocchio and Cricket to sing often. But he cleverly keeps them more atmospheric than theatrical razzmatazz. This is not a light or flashy film.

Of course, “Pinocchio” is not a horror, sci-fi or film noir, like del Toro’s previous pictures. The protagonist’s nose still grows when he lies, and he goes on adventures, only the director sets them in 1940s Italy, during the rise of Benito Mussolini. Del Toro explores fantasy, myth and childhood under oppressive fascism, as he did so masterfully with Pan’s Labyrinth and the Spanish Civil War; particles of light escaping darkness.

Pinocchio is forced to work in a puppet theater led by the Fagin-esque Count Volpe and performs a war propaganda song for Il Duce. Some extreme events can scare young children: branches later jump into battle, pull a gun, and there are several deaths in the process.

Count Volpe (voiced by Christoph Waltz) is the evil puppet show producer in Pinocchio.

The high stakes are what make Pinocchio such an unexpected and rediscovered delight and an overall beautiful experience. Disney’s wonderful Strange World, currently in theaters, also tackles the complexities of father-son relationships, but Pinocchio does so with greater emotion and true courage.

In many ways, del Toro’s film is little more than a chip off the old block.


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