A wooden puppet comes to life and tries to become
a real boy by resisting temptation and being selfless.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson
Written by Guillermo del Toro and Patrick McHale
Starring Gregory Mann, David Bradley, Ewan McGregor,
Ron Perlman, Christoph Waltz, Cate Blanchett, John Turturro,
Burn Gorman, Tilda Swinton, Finn Wolfhard
Based on the novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
2022 was the year of the little wooden puppet. We got Disney's remarkably forgettable remake by Robert Zemeckis, the even worse one starring Pauly Shore that virtually nobody saw, and then to cap off the year, we got this. Guillermo del Toro was the perfect filmmaker to do his spin on the tale of Pinocchio. The animation is absolutely stunning, the voice talent is astonishing, and that's where it ends for me. The film has a sluggish pace. It took me nearly a week to watch it in its entirety. Also, the characters are universally insufferable until the last fifteen minutes. Pinocchio is a petulant child, Geppetto is a mean drunk who chides Pinocchio for not being identical to his dead son Carlo, and Sebastian Cricket (because Jiminy is an IP owned by the House of Mouse) just wants his house back. Not to mention the abusive Count. I'm surprised that Netflix marketed this towards children, considering it's crazy dark and takes place in Fascist Italy.
Following the death of his son Carlo, Geppetto (Bradley) builds Pinocchio in a drunken rage. The Wood Sprite (Swinton), as she's called here, brings Pinocchio (Mann) to life. Geppetto is initially freaked out, then annoyed that this little wooden thing won't leave him alone. The town all see Pinocchio as the spawn of Satan because he was born of magic. Count Volpe (Waltz) sees Pinocchio as a cash cow, so he lures him to the circus. There's a bit where Pinocchio mocks Benito Mussolini with a poop song, Pinocchio dies a few times, there's the whale, then your usual self-sacrifice ending.
I admire del Toro's commitment to seeing this project through to the end. It's not what I expected, and I think it could've been better, but I'm glad people seem to be responding positively to it. I don't know why the film is sometimes a musical, or why Fascist Italy had to be a part of it. Maybe if I watch it a second time, I'll see more in it.