Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is a serious version of the classic story of a father’s wish to magically bring a wooden boy to life in Italy but set during World War II and the fascist era of Mussolini. Source: Jesuit Media.
While the familiar story of Pinocchio is present (without the story of the lost boys and their turning into donkeys), this version is idiosyncratic and distinctive. First, it is stop-motion animation with striking characters, situations and action, but often with a dark tone. The director has assembled a strong voice cast, young Gregory Mann as Pinocchio and veteran actor David Bradley as Geppetto. Ewan McGregor does the commentary as Sebastian J Cricket. (And, the baboon character, assistant to Count Volpe (a sinister Christophe Waltz) with his travelling show, has only strange sound utterances from Cate Blanchett!.
Audiences will be taken aback when they learn the action begins in 1916, during World War I. Geppetto is working with his beloved son Carlo on a giant crucifix for the local church (there are a number of Catholic references) when Carlo is killed by a bomb dropped from an overhead plane. Geppetto goes into decline – but he does carve his puppet, Pinocchio. There is the dream where the Blue Fairy gives the gift of life to Pinocchio. And Sebastian J Cricket, more serious, perhaps than usual, is there as Pinocchio’s conscience and guide, as well is the narrator of the film.
The action now takes place during the fascist years of Mussolini (who also comes to the circus to see the puppet but receives some comeuppance).
The theme of father and son is strong. The important message of telling lies – and Pinocchio’s branch-like extending nose is striking – is significant. There are a lot of funny slapstick scenes, especially involving the cricket.
Attentive younger audiences will find it intriguing, as will an increasingly curious adult audience.
Review by Fr Peter Malone MSC, Jesuit Media.
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio: Voiced by Gregory Mann, Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett, Francesca Fanti, Burn Gorman, Tim Blake Nelson, Tilda Swinton, John Turturro, Christoph Waltz. Directed by Guillermo del Toro, Mike Gustafson. 117 minutes. Rated (Scary scenes, mature themes and violence). Streaming on Netflix.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (Jesuit Media via Australian Catholics)