Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio (2022)

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio (2022) Cover

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio (which is the director’s animated film debut) differs greatly and beautifully in comparison to the soulless rehash Disney brought us earlier this year. Charmingly voice-acted, gorgeously animated with stop-motion, and featuring a score and songs that will put a smile on your face; this rendition of Pinocchio is a refreshing take on the classic tale.

David Bradley, who you may know as grouchy Mr. Filch from the Harry Potter franchise voices Geppetto who is mourning the loss of his 10 year old son Carlo (who I am sure was named after the author of  the 1883 Italian novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi). After spiraling into a maddening depression, this poor woodcarver creates Pinocchio (Gregory Mann) who comes to life but is not a nice boy like Geppetto's son; instead, he is a disobedient brat who does not understand many things about how the world works. The film explores parenting, the challenge of living up to the expectation of those around you, and being careful with who you trust.

This movie has been in development hell since 2008 and the time they took to produce the film and finally release it has paid off tremendously as there’s so many beautiful things to love about this film. Pinocchio has an emotional start, as we not only learn of Geppetto's son Carlo’s death but we actually get to spend a chunk of time with this son via a flashback of Carlo and see the bond that he and his father shared. They attend church together and work on wood projects together. “It has to have all of its scales,” Geppetto gently tells Carlo regarding pine cones, as he is teaching his son what he needs to look for in pine cones. The relationship is infectiously sweet. When the time comes where Carlo dies, it reminds me of the heartbreaking scene from Big Hero 6 where Hiro weeps at the loss of his brother. You feel the pain and it stings. This would not have been as effective if we weren’t shown the status of Geppetto and Carlo’s relationship so intimately and I commend the filmmaker’s execution of the opening sequence.

Alexandre Desplat, who previously worked with del Toro on The Shape of Water, is a mastermind behind both the marvelous songs and score the film features. “Ciao Papa” is the stand out track that plays halfway through the film when Pinocchio ventures off from his father, which is both sweet and melancholy. Additionally, the folk medieval score compliments the film and elevates the fantasy atmosphere the film aims for. Desplat has a high chance at scoring nominations for both Best Score and Best Song at The Academy Awards.

Cinematography by Frank Passingham and his team is phenomenal, as the film is glorious moving art where each frame is meticulously crafted with beautiful detail, color, contrast, and style. Although other top contenders for Best Animated films of 2022, such as Turning Red and Lightyear, have strong aspects to them, the stop-motion sets this animated film from the rest of the crop from a visual standpoint- and my vote would go to Pinocchio because it is slightly more engaging from that visual and screenplay standpoint (Although we do still have Walt Disney's Strange World to assess). Character designs are impressive; particularly an underworld spirit who boasts multiple eyes and has an impressive glowing purple body that stands out from the rest of the film. 

The screenplay has it all; moments that will have you teary-eyed as well as several moments that will make you laugh! Pinocchio’s ignorance is often amusing. He does not know what anything is and his opinions rapidly shift. From one moment being excited to go to school to school sounding like the worst thing you can possibly do, his unpredictable disposition is an entertainment gem. 

The film probably could’ve shaved off 10 minutes (specifically a sequence where Pinocchio is at a young boy’s war training) and that would’ve sharpened the pacing but nonetheless the film has a contagious upbeat energy that should keep most audiences engaged. Despite this being a darker and realistic look at Pinocchio, it is an appropriate family-friendly film. Between the eye-popping visuals and the infectious impressive score, Pinocchio is an enjoyable journey I recommend.

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio will be playing in select theaters November 17th in the Houston area and streaming on Netflix December 9th, 2022.

Final Verdict:Charmingly voice-acted, gorgeously animated with stop-motion, and featuring a score and songs that will put a smile on your face; this rendition of Pinocchio is a refreshing take on the classic tale.