First, I want to give a shout out to the original Pinocchio author, Carlo Collodi, a fine Sagittarian born on November 24th and who died at 63 back in 1890.
With that acknowledgement out of the way, let me say I was pumping the brakes during the first ten minutes of GdT’s Pinocchio, thinking aw schucks, do I need this treacly kiddie show tonight? BUT, my heart melted immediately after the Big P comes into view.
The animation is as good as you’ve heard. Astonishingly real, but at the same time also surreal. While Marcel the Shell with Shoes On was cute and moving (a story also about mortality), Pinocchio is far superior in technical aspects and story creativity. So God forbid, the Academy gets all gushy for 60 Minutes and Lesley Stahl (who ‘co-star’ in Marcel) because you will see one angry Oscars watcher if GdT’s Pinocchio does not win best animation.
And while the sugary aforementioned beginning lures you into thinking this is a cotton candy kids story, in actuality, it is more adult than Avatar. Mortality is tricky business and the story changes by del Torro, Patrick McHale and Mark Gustavsen add a healthy dose of war, child abuse and greed. Their world is indeed dark as is its setting.
The cadre of voice actors are unparalleled. David Bradley as Gepetto is a raspy wonder. Ewan McGregor as the cricket almost steals the show and provides a marvelous through line. Tilda “Can Do No Wrong” Swinton is tremendous as both Wood Sprite and Death and drum roll, Gregory Mann is the perfect adolescent voice to communicate both the naivete and the painfully aware Pinocchio.
Many scenes were moving and yet my favorite is when Pinocchio, hijacked into going to boot camp, lies in bed next a fellow boy soldier. Their talk about fear and expectations combined with the magical animation captures such subtlety as what happens when one cries lying down. Watch the film to find out what I mean. Gorgeous film making!