Review of Pinocchio by Guillermo del Toro

Horror master Guillermo del Toro is now famous enough that his own easily misspelled name appears alongside Pinocchio’s in the title. And this offbeat stop-motion animation could only have sprung from the Mexican’s unique imagination.

In terms of cuteness, this one falls in between the other two, being less terrifying than the 2020 movie starring Roberto Benigni, but far less cloying than September’s Disney+ version with Tom Hanks.

Like del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, the fantasy has its roots in history, with Mussolini’s Fascist Italy replacing Franco’s Fascist Spain.

A storm rages when drunk and heartbroken carpenter Geppetto (David Bradley) tries to cut a picture of his dead son out of a pine tree in rural 1930s Italy.

And there are more flashes of Frankenstein as the misshapen creature is brought to life by Tilda Swinton’s endearing wood sprite. The loose-limbed Pinocchio (Gregory Mann) is born with a manic intensity, creating chaos as he explores the workshop and questions every object.

The locals think he’s an “abomination”, local fascist Ron Perlman sees an indestructible soldier while Geppetto wishes he could be as good as his dead son.

When Pinocchio runs away to join a traveling circus, his ‘father’ and the cricket keeper (Ewan McGregor) desperately try to track him down.

There are some wonderful surreal creatures, a handful of songs, and moments of heartbreaking shock.

As in the Disney version, Pinocchio must learn the importance of honesty and respect. But, here, disobedience is also a virtue.

When leaders need their citizens to be thoughtless puppets, a rebellious wooden boy feels like the most human of all of us.

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