ELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times
There have been many takes on the famous “Pinocchio” story throughout the years, with many creative teams taking on the story. Most recently, director Guillermo Del Toro took on the story and after many years of work, his version was released on Netflix last week.
Del Toro’s version puts the story in 1930s Fascist Italy as master woodcarver Geppetto carves the namesake puppet after tragically losing his young son, Carlo. Throughout the movie, Pinocchio struggles to live up to his father's expectations and learns many lessons about the meaning of life.
To start off, the voice cast for the movie was VERY well chosen and includes David Bradley as Geppetto, Ewan McGregor as Sebastian J. Cricket, newcomer Gregory Mann as Pinocchio, Christoph Waltz as the movie’s main villain Count Volpe, and Tilda Swinton as both the Wood Sprite who brings Pinocchio to life as well as her sister, Death. Mann does an absolutely wonderful job in the lead role and perfectly captures Pinocchio’s curiosity about the world as well as the occasional brattiness children can be known for, and he also has a lovely singing voice for the few musical numbers he has throughout the movie. Bradley also does a wonderful job as Geppetto and conveys his crankiness and deep grief from the loss of his son, and he also portrays Geppetto’s softening toward his new son as the movie goes on. Swinton is also fantastic in her double role and is able to be both gentle yet harsh in her interactions, and it’s a great performance. Waltz also seemed to have a lot of fun in his most recent villainous role and he captured a perfect balance between being charming and downright malicious to those he interacts with – I won’t give anything away here, so if you want to see what I mean, you’ll have to just watch the movie. The only complaint I have as far as the voice acting is I didn’t feel like they used McGregor very much in his role as Pinocchio’s cricket conscience – he’s supposed to be quite a prominent character in the story, but I didn’t feel like they used him as much as he should have been. Overall, however, the entire voice cast did an amazing job and I enjoyed all the performances.
Something about the movie that particularly surprised me was how dark the movie’s overall tone was. Given how Del Toro tends to put a bit of a dark twist in his movies, I knew to expect some of that, but I’m pretty sure I set a personal record for the amount of times I said/thought “WHAT THE EVERLOVING (insert any expletive here)?!” throughout the movie. Within the first few minutes, viewers see exactly the tragic circumstances that lead to Geppetto carving Pinocchio, and then throughout the rest of the movie, there are other portrayals of the harshness of that point in history and other dark undertones of grief, love and loss. As I said before, I won’t give anything away, so if you want to see what I mean, you’ll have to just watch the movie. It’s all portrayed rather beautifully, but I would definitely recommend this not being shown to younger children because of how dark some parts of the storyline are.
Keeping with that, something else I appreciated about the movie is how basically everyone learns something throughout the movie. Geppetto slowly comes to terms with losing his son and comes to care about Pinocchio, Pinocchio learns how to behave and how precious life is, and Sebastian learns some small lessons himself about being a parental figure and how to consider others more. These lessons are all somewhat subtle throughout the movie, but they’re definitely there.
The stop-motion animation and overall design of the movie are also done VERY well and I can’t begin to imagine how much time and work and effort it took to put everything together. From the characters themselves to the various places where Pinocchio finds himself, everything is stunning to look at and even though it’s very clearly stop-motion animation, everything has so much life to it and it’s almost legitimately like watching a puppet show. There’s just as much vibrancy in the scenes that take place in the afterlife as there are in the scenes that take place in Italy, and I could tell there was A LOT of thought and care put toward how everything should look. Overall, Del Toro took the idea of using puppets to tell a story about a puppet very much to heart, and the result is absolutely visually stunning. According to some interviews I’ve read about the movie, it’s taken Del Toro basically a decade to get this movie made, and it definitely shows throughout the movie how much he cared about interpreting the story.
Overall, I very much enjoyed Guillermo Del Toro’s take on the “Pinocchio” story and I would give it a solid “A” grade. The voice acting throughout the movie is wonderfully done and showcases everyone’s talents (particularly young Gregory Mann in the title role), and there’s so much heart and emotion conveyed. The movie is also visually stunning and there was definitely much time and care put into how everything was supposed to look, and everything is quite lifelike. The movie also rather embraces the story’s darker elements and had me quite stunned as the movie went on and given that, I wouldn’t recommend this be shown to younger viewers given some of those elements. Overall, if you’re a fan of Del Toro’s other work and a fan of the “Pinocchio” story, you’ll enjoy this version, currently available on Netflix.