Directed by: Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson
Distributed by: Netflix
Written by Taylor Baker
With the help of writer Patrick McHale, Guillermo del Toro has gently spun the beloved classic tale of a wooden boy and his quest for humanity to revolve around themes and ideas that del Toro has long been obsessed with. Set in World War II they’re able to utilize the time period to bring in undercurrents of fascism, depression, faith, and desire while staying committed to the significant plot points and tenants of the original story and cartoon. Unlike Disney’s original 1940 adaptation, which was crafted with hand-drawn art, del Toro and Gustafson’s version features occasionally gorgeous, painstakingly detailed stop-motion animation. With Guillermo’s signature style and creative vision woven into the miniatures and settings. Most of the time this all comingles beautifully though there are exceptions with a few moments and a handful of scenes that are wonkily offbeat.
As with many recent animated features, “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” leans on established live-action performers for its voice performances rather than tried and true voice actors. The results are mixed with scenes from Cate Blanchett conveying far more gravitas and believability than scenes with John Turturro’s Dottore or Ron Perlman’s Podesta. Though David Bradley’s (Argus Filch from the “Harry Potter” films) turn as Gepetto meshes wonderfully with this vision for Gepetto. Pinocchio is played diligently by Gregory Mann. Who succeeds in bringing life to the wooden boy, but due to an ill-conceived notion that “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” should feature musical asides he’s asked to carry more than he’s capable of, through no fault of his own.
This isn’t the dark “Pinocchio” adaptation that had been publicized when del Toro was first attached to the project in the mid-2010s. Instead, it’s a competent adaptation of the source material, with meticulous animation, and an uneven driving force that has moments of storytelling beauty and innovation. Setting the film in Mussolini’s Italy and partially interrogating the machismo of the period through a capture-the-flag military exercise is a decidedly fresh approach. But for every interesting wrinkle, there is just as often a feeling of forcing more into the film than it can hold. “Pinocchio” is a story that has resonated across audiences for decades, unfortunately, this retelling isn’t as stimulating as Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske’s 1940 Disney cartoon but it is nice to see del Toro work as a co-director in a new medium.
“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” Trailer