There is certainly no shortage of Pinocchio movies. Guillermo del Toro’s version is the third this year. It will air on Netflix in December, but I attended an advance screening. Is this version any better than the twenty-nine film versions that have preceded it? I haven’t seen them all, but I’ve seen more (and read more Pinocchio books) than anyone should reasonably be subjected to under the Geneva Conventions, so I have an informed opinion.
I believe this version deserves to become a classic. Del Toro manages to find the balance between the wild delinquent Pinocchio in Collodi’s original book and the cloying, awful Disney versions. He’s a loose cannon, but so charming you can’t help but root for him. The movie has plenty of del Toro’s trademark darkness, but also touching clarity about childhood delight and finding beauty in unlikely places. I struggled to grok the intended audience. It will frighten young children, but adult audiences might not give it the chance it deserves. If you love Tim Burton’s movies, you should be captivated by this one.
The animation is stop-motion, but doesn’t look it – there’s very little of the stiff jerkiness associated with stop-motion. You won’t be aware of it except in details like ocean waves, where it serves to make the very frightening giant dogfish a little less frightening. The backgrounds are beautifully reminiscent of Italian renaissance paintings. The songs are inoffensive and forgettable.
Del Toro has set his Pinocchio in real-world Italy during the rise of fascism between the World Wars. This is what I have done in my novel as well, though in mine, he is an adult rather than a child puppet, and doesn’t stay in Italy. Even so, I have to swallow a lump of fear that people will think I was influenced by his version in writing mine. I wasn’t. Honest. Mine was written from beginning to end before I ever became aware that del Toro had a movie in the works. Guillermo, I forgive you for stealing my idea.
Final word: Do give this movie a chance, even if you don’t think you can stand another Pinocchio movie.