‘Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio’ movie review: A fantastical fable about faith, fatherhood and fascism

Through this adaptation, Guillermo del Torro tips his hat to dissidents who find the courage to stand tall in the face of fascism, and choose to extend kindness and foster bonds of solidarity

December 10, 2022 03:34 pm | Updated 03:35 pm IST

A still from ‘Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio’

A still from ‘Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio’

Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio getsa new lease of life in the hands of Academy Award winner Guillermo del Toro and stop-motion genius Mark Gustafson. The two-hour-long adaptation of the Italian writer’s seminal work inspects the tribulations of living, the contingency of death and everything in between. 

Distraught after the death of his son Carlo in The Great War, Geppetto (David Bradley), in a drunken stupor, carves a run-down wooden puppet out of a tree trunk in an attempt to replace his son. Soon a divine spirit breathes life into Geppetto’s creation and we’re introduced to Pinocchio (Gregory Mann), a walking-talking wooden puppet.

Geppetto — like Victor Frankenstein — is initially terrified of his own creation, but he soon makes acquaintance with Pinocchio and they ease into comfortably playing the parts of a father and a son. Misunderstandings and misguided actions take the duo down the belly of a sea monster, an exploitative ringmaster, and the warmonger himself —  Il Duce. Throughout the arduous journey, peppered with multiple near-death experiences, the strikingly animated stop-motion figures probe complex philosophical questions that plague humans and wooden puppets alike. From questioning the blind allegiance of people, to a wooden statue of Jesus Christ, to intellectualising the emotions he shares with his father, Pinocchio — through his slightly disfigured body strewn with nails — investigates life endearingly in a time when war comes knocking at the door. 

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Directors: Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson
Actors: Gregory Mann, Ewan McGregor, Finn Wolfhard, Ron Perlman, David Bradley, Tilda Swinton, Cate Blanchett
Runtime: 114 minutes
Storyline: A father’s wish magically brings a wooden boy to life in Italy, giving him a chance to care for the child

Through this adaptation, del Torro is tipping his hat to dissidents who find the courage to stand tall in the face of fascism and choose to extend kindness and foster bonds of solidarity. Through the wooden cracks of Pinocchio, we get a front-row seat to del Torro examining his own psyche.

The film has its moments of light humour thanks to Ewan McGregor, who lent his voice to Sebastian J. Cricket, the philosophising cricket who holds the strings of del Toro’s narration together. All the actors’ voices, enmeshed with the stop-motion figures, make the emotions and sentiments flow with ease.

Each character has its own ticks, quirks and distinct body language, and Gustafson does a remarkable job of breathing life into inanimate stop-motion figures advancing the critique of the film. While Pinocchio trudges down dark paths for most of the runtime, the film is anything but bleak; it is a celebration of mortality, acceptance and bridges the gulf of love that exists between imperfect fathers and their sons.

Guillermo del Toro’s penchant for finding humanity in the unlikeliest of places, and his critique of the rigid rules that restrict the human connection through the physical bodies of puppets, makes this a notable animation offering for the ages.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is currently streaming on Netflix

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