'Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio' Review: The Director Reimagines The Wooden Boy To Life
He'll become a real boy, again! That is because we the people can never get enough of this tale about a wooden boy so here we go once again to Italy. If you can get past rather obnoxious habit of putting filmmaker or original author's name in the title, you might want to stick around for Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, stop-motion reimagining of Carlo Collodi's classic novel 'The Adventures Of Pinocchio', directed by Mark Gustafson and del Toro from a screenplay by del Toro and Patrick McHale.
Taking place in 1930s when Italy was under fascist rule, Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor) narrates woodcarver Geppetto (David Bradley) building a wooden puppet named Pinocchio (Gregory Mann) after he loses his real son. Pinocchio then comes to life and instead of acting like a good boy as is expected of him, he causes trouble which leads him to be taken by abusive carnival owner Count Volpe (Christoph Waltz).
Despite having not seen previous filmed adaptations, it would seem that del Toro and rest manage to quickly establish the film's tonality, which perhaps isn't for younger kids but uses all the cinematic elements one would hope to find in a new approach. Relying on themes and character arcs that include father-son relationships, inherent goodness and knowing when to stand up for your own humanity and beliefs, the screenplay is constantly connected to emotions between two characters while developing them to deal with larger threats that they face later, like fascism or abuse. Good parts aren't forgotten either, as exemplified by the humour that Sebastian is there to provide. The film operates as an entertaining fantasy adventure and works well in that form alone but it takes the extra step to conjure a specific sense of place and time that affects characters and welcomes their growth and learning.
Filmmaking in ''Pinocchio'' is all-around great but there's a very special marriage between Gustafson and del Toro's direction and the production design by Guy Davis and Curt Enderle. It makes del Toro's handprint immediately apparent—expected splashes of deep blues and dirty orange shades haven't gone anywhere—while always being crucial for characters' actions. It's also hard to figure out where it ends and CG enhancement begins. In similar vein, overall visual design is remarkably in conversation with animated performances like Geppetto's which indeed is overseen by the director duo and could be studied by real actors as well in terms of how to portray sympathy, frustration and longing.
That kind of vulnerability also comes across in the film's voice acting; Bradley making Geppetto feel even more alive if that's possible, Mann bringing perfect amount of excitement and naivety, Waltz delivering pathetic fragility of his character and McGregor hitting the comedic pitch with ease. Effort put into every frame and piece of audio is evident.
Smileys: Production design, voice acting, screenplay, directing, tone
Frowneys: Nothing too disturbing
Imagine having to do your own sound design when your joke bombs *crickets*.