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Pinocchio review (LFF 2022): Guillermo del Toro outdoes himself

Guillermo del Toro's long awaited animated movie isn't just the best Pinocchio movie ever made, but is one of the filmmaker's most impressive works to date

Pinocchio review: Pinocchio with a blue glove of his wooden nose

Our Verdict

Guillermo del Toro hasn't just made the best Pinocchio movie of 2022, but he has also made one of his best movies of all time with his first animated feature.

2022 has been the year of Pinocchio, with a whopping three films released. Based on the classic 1883 Italian novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, the tale of the wooden boy has been put to screen by Lionsgate, Disney, and now Netflix. But like every cinematic competition, out of the three family movies of 2022, there is one resounding winner when it comes to the best adaptation of the famous animated toy story.

From its script to its glorious stop motion design, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio stands above the rest of the Pinocchio attempts this year – winning the war of the puppets against Disney and Lionsgate with ease and style. With immaculate wooden designs, mystical monsters, musical numbers, and a script commenting on the horrors of war and fascism, del Toro has firmly made the story of Pinocchio his own while also sticking to the themes and essence of Collodi’s original text.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Pinocchio, the story follows the adventures of a wooden puppet who comes to life. The original tale is packed with metaphors as the puppet must learn right from wrong and avoid the temptation of instant gratification during his journey to becoming ‘a real boy’.

In del Toro’s retelling, Pinocchio is brought to life in 1930, during a time of war in Fascist Italy. With the help of Sebastian J Cricket and the spirits of the afterlife, the young ‘boy’ learns the meaning of life and the value of being loved as a son and friend along the way.

Originally announced in 2008, it has been a bumpy road through production hell for del Toro’s first animated movie. Fans have been waiting over a decade to see the acclaimed filmmaker’s take on the story, and thankfully, after a long time in limbo, the end product of the director’s long-time labour does not disappoint.

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The new setting of Mussolini-era fascist Italy in the 1930s works beautifully, the visuals feel akin to a dark medieval fairy-tale, and existential themes are paired with enduring musical moments – making the film an impactful yet easy watch for the whole family.

In many ways, Pinocchio feels reminiscent of del Toro’s 2001 ghost movie The Devil’s Backbone as it addresses themes of oppression and loss through the lens of an innocent child existing in an authoritarian government. The film also feels spiritually linked to his horror movie Pan’s Labyrinth with his puppet designs and Pinocchio’s dealings with the afterlife.

Perhaps that is what makes Pinocchio feels so special since it is not only a beautiful and touching piece of work in its own right but is also an amalgamation of del Toro’s past work and style as a filmmaker. The passion of del Toro is evident, and when paired with a fresh take on the classic story, the fantasy movie feels wholly unique and, for lack of a better word, breathtaking.

Pinocchio review: Pinocchio performing in a puppet show

Besides the writing and impressive visuals, the music and voice-over work is equally well done. Ewan McGregor, as Sebastian J. Cricket / the story’s narrator, is hilarious in his delivery, keeping us smiling even through the existential scenes and the backdrop of war.

Gregory Mann, as Pinocchio, is vibrant and optimistic, and David Bradley, as Geppetto, is complex as a grieving father learning to love again. All the cast’s musical numbers capture their character’s personalities down to a tie, and a few songs even bring tears to the eyes. Again, del Toro has shown incredible attention to detail as everything in the adventure movie flows and connects to one another, crafting a clean and near-perfect finished product.

Although some iconic moments from the story are missing, such as Pleasure Island, which is replaced with a Bootcamp for young soldiers, del Toro doesn’t shy away from the dark and emotionally hard-to-watch moments of Collodi’s story. Like Frankenstein’s monster, Pinocchio is a stranger and strange oddity to the real world. Life, especially sudden life, isn’t easy, and morality and love can be painful as well as beautiful.

Pinocchio review: the blue spirit bringing Pinocchio to life

As mentioned above, nearly every element of Pinocchio works. Even as a long-time lover of the 1940 Disney movie version, I have to admit that del Toro’s take may just be the best Pinocchio movie ever to hit Hollywood. The only fault to pick with the new Pinocchio is the fact that some scenes feel missing in the puppet’s journey.

How Pinocchio is abducted and taken to the aforementioned soldier boot camp is never shown, along with another moment involving the ambitious puppeteer Count Volpe (Christopher Waltz) – that we won’t get into now, as to avoid spoilers (you’ll know it when you see it!)

But despite these tiny criticisms, Pinocchio is truly a marvel and easily one of del Toro’s best movies to date. It will make you laugh, cry, sing, and then cry again. In short, it isn’t just a stunning family film to share with your loved ones; it is also a stunning animated movie to add to your collection of all-time greats.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio will release in select theatres on November 25, 2022 – before hitting the streaming service Netflix on December 9, 2022.