Thursday, December 8, 2022

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio - Review

 Over the past five years, Hollywood has seemingly fallen in love with just about everything that Guillermo del Toro touches. For most things, it’s justified. For other things, like Pinocchio, it doesn’t feel like enough. Somehow, del Toro and directing partner Mark Gustafon turn this very familiar story into something incredibly moving, beautiful and altogether astounding.

A retelling of the beloved fairytale, set against the backdrop of 1930s fascist Italy, Pinocchio brings a new perspective and artistry to the tale everyone knows. 

It’s not as though the story of the wooden-boy is a rousing new idea for audiences, everyone has seemingly taken a stab at it over the decades. But this version reimagines its children’s tale into a darker vision of just how crippling and isolating grief can be. There’s still more than its fair share of whimsy, but the sorrowful touch seeps into every aspect of this version, illustrating just how mystifying and magical an old classic can still be when given to the right creators. 

One thing is certain about this particular adaptation: del Toro and company must of had a blast in design phase. Pinocchio is a stop-motion animated film, meaning each frame has to me meticulously crafted with puppets and props. And for this film, the characters and creatures that populate come alive with this eerie, marionette movement that only feels appropriate with the absolutely nightmarish designs of some of its more well known elements. Gone is the blue fairy of wands and wings, replaced with a woodland design that would surely haunt the dreams of anyone it came to visit. Even Pinocchio himself takes on a far more wooden appearance, reminding everyone of his more garish origins.

Say whatever you will about needing another adaptation of the living wooden puppet, but make no mistake, no one phoned it in here. The already mentioned designs are only part of the excellent craftsmanship on display. Along with the characters and creatures, the set designs that make up this world are incredible, featuring the same level of odd details that make the characters pop. You also get the lovely, magical music of Alexandre Desplat to tie it all together, both the score and the songs (yes, surprise surprise, it’s a musical). 

In the end, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is an unbelievably beautiful film. It’s quite easily the best animated film of the year, and in contention for one of the best films of year, no qualifiers. If Netflix realizes what they have on their hands, everyone can expect to hear endless mentions of it throughout the awards season, even contending for the title of first non-Pixar animated film nominated for Best Picture. It’ll be an uphill climb, but Pinocchio is built to withstand the challenges. 

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