Don’t be put off by yet another Pinocchio movie. Guillermo del Toro’s version tells a different tale and is possibly the most unforgettable version ever.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Synopsis
The ageless story of a magical wooden puppet yearning to be a real boy is given a makeover and a major expansion in this stop-motion masterpiece by Guillermo del Toro. Ever wonder whether Geppetto was really that accepting of a wooden puppet that simply came to life one night? What tragedy led to the old woodcarver wanting another son in the first place? And in a wicked world of ruthless and controlling men, would naïve Pinocchio even have a chance at survival?
Inspired by Gris Grimly’s 2002 reimagination of the classic Italian fairy tale, and one of those rare movies that managed to escape from development hell, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is the second Pinocchio movie this year, just months after Disney+ released their live action one. If you include Matteo Garrone’s 2019 retelling, this makes it the third Pinocchio movie we are getting in but just three years.
However much you love the story, I bet you must have wondered. Huh, what’s with the sudden obsession? Is it worth my time to watch another Pinocchio movie?
Well, I certainly asked myself those questions. I also decided, nah, I’m not that interested in another retelling at the moment, and so I put aside watching it for a few days. I even opted to watch two insipid Netflix Xmas movies before I finally got down to streaming it.
What a mistake. Repeat, what a mistake. I should have streamed this incredible stop-motion masterpiece the moment it was available.
In a nutshell, Guillermo del Toro’s version retains the essence of the classic story but is also so, so very much more. For a start, the Mexican auteur begins by exploring Geppetto’s deepest grief, a prequel that infinitely enriches the subsequent story because it explains much of Pinocchio’s complicated relationship with his papa/maker, as well as provides for a thoughtful discussion on the often stormy interactions between fathers and sons.
By repositioning the tale to Fascist Italy of the 1930s, a thorough questioning of man’s greed for control is also facilitated. To be honest, I initially felt the statements on this are somewhat too in-your-face, but as the story progressed, I realised, wasn’t this what Carlo Collodi intended all along with his story?
Though the Fox and the Cat, and the Coachman, do not directly appear in this retelling, their greed and cravings for the easy manipulation of others are present in other forms. In that sense, this “new” theme of control is but the embracing of one of the darkest messages of the source material, one that’s long been there and usually shunned. This boldness, in turn, infused new sophistication into the adventure.
Together with the discussions on fatherhood, the classic tale is then gifted with several new faces. I’m sure these new aspects will be examined and appreciated for years to come.
Story revisions and improvements aside, this new Pinocchio is full of beauty and mirth too. Every still is akin to a masterfully crafted word carving worthy of any wall. At every opportunity, del Toro’s playful fondness for macabre imageries shows too. You’d never expect a boyish toy puppet to be scary, yeah? But how would you react when if one starts spider-walking down the stairs? (Diavolo!) When his head turns 180 degrees too? You’d be thankful he grins crookedly at you afterward…
In short, it’s magical from start to end. Watching this revision and update of Carlo Collodi’s ageless tale is a wondrous experience that invites introspection and admiration.
The experience also ends with a bittersweet statement, one that’s immediately followed by a joyous song-and-dance by Sir Ewan McGregor’s Sebastian Cricket. On this finale, I’ll just say it made me glad I watched the movie in my bedroom.
It would have been quite embarrassing to walk out of a cinema with a wet face.
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