8/10 Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the upcoming Academy Awards, “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is easily the best of the three animated features I have seen but I still have two more to go. Not only is this del Toro’s best film (a hot take I realize), but the best film adaptation of the Pinocchio story. I watched everything from the original 1940 film to the multiple Roberto Benigni adaptations to last week’s review of the horrendous Robert Zemeckis version which also came out in 2022 and this is easily the best. Technically del Toro co-directed this so it just as easily could have been called “Mark Gustafson’s Pinocchio” but del Toro, in addition to greater name recognition and an Oscar win, co-wrote and produced this film, which his co-director did neither of. As for why this is the best version of the 1883 novel by Carlo Collodi, one big reason is that this film was made in the style of a stop-motion musical. While cartoon versions make sense, all of the live action versions or live action/animation hybrids have always looked horribly cheesy. The over the top nature of the story never translates well to live action and the CGI utilized has never aged well. However, the stop-motion style is perfect for the story being told and the animation is gorgeous with painstakingly rendered detail. Everything from the darker color scheme to the lighting and cinematography looks incredible with only one background that I spotted in a scene that was clearly drawn in. Minus that one exception, this is stop-motion animation done right. The score from del Toro regular (and two time Oscar winner) Alexandre Desplat is magnificent and the original songs written for this film go well with the tone and mood established in the film. While “I’ve Got No Strings” and the iconic “When You Wish Upon a Star” are classics, they have also been done to death in Pinocchio related films so to have some new music is such a breath of fresh air. The voice cast couldn’t be more perfect as we get a mix of unknowns (Gregory Mann is brilliant as Pinocchio and can sing too) and bigger names who really stand out in their roles (Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton and Christoph Waltz were the highlights). Instead of repeating tired and true elements of the story that we have seen dozens of times throughout the decades that this story has been put to film, del Toro and Gustafson wisely make some interesting changes. Turning the Blue Fairy into a mythical creature that looks like a Biblically accurate angel was one of my favorite changes that is right up del Toro’s (nightmare) alley. Instead of just stating how Geppetto’s son died before Pinocchio comes along, we actually get some powerful backstory regarding the death and the impact it has on Geppetto. The film takes place from WWI in the beginning into WWII Italy and this is the first time I can recall a Pinocchio story taking place where the surrounding time/environment has such a profound outcome on the overall story, which I loved. As for the minor complaints, some of the dialogue, especially from Waltz’s Count Volpe character was full of pretentious, over sized words that kids will have no idea what is being said and even some adults will question what he is saying. It’s also doubtful a shady carnival runner would be so educated as to speak the way he does. If he was so educated, one would assume he would have selected a better line of work more suited to his intellect. I also had a hard time understanding some of the words being sung by Pinocchio due to the diction from the young actor. There was a huge coincidence when Count Volpe shows up near the end of the film and the fact that he just happened to be where Pinocchio got launched to felt a little lazy. Minor complaints aside, taking a rather ridiculous story and making it feel grounded in the real world with beautiful visuals, a fantastic score and a perfect voice cast makes this the ideal Pinocchio adaptation to check out. It might be a little dark for younger kids but I’d still gladly take it over the more recent adaptations any day of the week.
#BurdensOfPrey / #FilmPinoNoir / #PineConeheads / #WoodWorkWouldWork / #TheEternalSon / #PuppetsMostWanted

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