REVIEW: ‘Pinocchio’ Showcases Why Animation Should Be Included in Best Picture

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Guillermo del Toros Pinocchio

We all know the story of Pinocchio, the boy made of wood who wants nothing more in the world than to become a real boy, and in the process become a real son. We’ve even seen a lackluster live-action adaptation this year. However, Guillermo del Toro has taken this familiar tale and reimagined it as a story that embraces trauma, grief, and belonging in fascist Italy. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is also brought to life with award-winning, stop-motion legend Mark Gustafson as co-director and encapsulates how love can shape who we are and keep us moving. The film is written by del Toro and Patrick McHale and stars Gregory Mann, Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, David Bradley, Tilda Swinton, and Christoph Waltz.

Visually, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is gorgeous. From the effects to create tears and showcase characters in water and submerged and the intricate ways that fire glows, every little bit of animation is an exploration of creativity and storytelling. And with that beauty comes layered genre storytelling that embraces fantasy, comedy, drama, and of course horror too. While Pinocchio isn’t steeped in horror, there are certain elements used to create an eerie and otherworldly exploration of puppetry. In our titular character, the way his body moves when he comes to life and the use of jump scares, you can see the horror that del Toro loves so dear. That said, it never overpowers the whimsy and instead, we see a variety of genres pulled together to tell one powerful story about love and grief.

In one of the most powerful breakdowns I’ve seen on screen, audiences get to see the love of a father and son cut short by the trauma of war. While most adaptations of Pinocchio leave Geppetto on the sidelines of the film, as more of a prop for Pinocchio and Cricket to grow with, this iteration of the classic tale takes time to develop who this father is and who he becomes when grief strikes. David Bradley’s voice performance as Geppetto is heartbreaking. Not just because of his tears, but because of the anger that manifests in his darkest moments and the mistakes he makes throughout the film.

These flaws are uniquely human and Pinocchio’s love of his Papa even with them feels greater than the story that we’re used to. Pinocchio learns about the negatives of humanity throughout the film, but never loses the spark that pushes him towards love, even when he’s at his most selfish. The childlike wonder, naivete, and selfishness all come together to make a real boy, even in his wooden moments. When this meets Geppetto’s stark sorrow, the space to navigate these emotions is as deep as the sea that the film’s sea monster swims in.

And I haven’t even begun to talk about the film’s central theme of mortality and the loss that comes with it. Del Toro’s depictions of death, the afterlife, and the gods involved is truly inspired. A dark whimsical world, del Toro brings his signature fairytale style to the magical creatures and caretakers that we see in the film. Etherial and dark in equal measure, their role is to do more than just add wonder and beauty to the story. But I won’t be spoiling that here.

Guillermo del Toros Pinocchio

I would be remiss to not mention the phenomenal talents of both Gregory Mann and Ewan McGregor. While Mann’s work is easily noted as innocent, throughout the course of the film, his voice changes. The lightness becomes weighed down until finally hope can be found again. Additionally, McGregor effortlessly brings to life a self-centered Sebastian J. Cricket, whose hope of finishing his great novel morphs overtime as he learns from the small wooden boy he as charged to teach.

Additionally, the rest of the voice cast, both in song and spoken dialogue, performs beautifully with everything they’re feeling on display, matched by the dynamic ways that face are brought to life. Acting, score, script, set design, cinematography, the list goes on and on as to what Pinocchio shines, but the largest is del Toro’s ability to tell a story we all know seems unique and separate from any lineage that came before it.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is breathtaking and a testament to the visual power of animation. In every way, this film highlights exactly why animation should be up for Best Picture, not just resigned to animation. A stop-motion film, Pinocchio feature extremely detailed and emotional sets that use intricacy to create atmosphere, drama, and tension in the same ways that live actions films do.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio manages to take the story of a real boy and surround it with grief and war, exploring the darker elements of life through a childlike whimsy without losing any of its teeth. Grief and pain are as present as love and belonging. Trauma and fear dance with comedy and fantasy. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio captures the complexity of the world and the humans in it, and how we can survive after it all too.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is playing now in select theaters and will begin streaming exclusively on Netflix this December.


Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
  • 10/10
    Rating - 10/10
10/10

TL:DR

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio manages to take the story of a real boy and surround it with grief and war, exploring the darker elements of life through a childlike whimsy without losing any of its teeth. Grief and pain are as present as love and belonging. Trauma and fear dance with comedy and fantasy. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio captures the complexity of the world and the humans in it, and how we can survive after it all too.

But Why Tho? A Geek Community
%d bloggers like this: