If anything is to be said of the man who has claimed the title of visionary director its that he knows how to find the visuals of love. Director Guillermo Del Toro revels in the compassion and heartfelt connection between human beings and often creatures of flight and fantasy. Guillermo Del Toro?s Pinnochio sees him tackling a father-son relationship between an aging old man and his alcohol induced creation. A puppet made of the finest Italian pine named Pinocchio (Gregory Mann).
The aging old man is a name you might recognize, Geppetto (David Bradely) a grieving widower who after losing his son to a bomb that was being discarded now sits waiting to get his boy back. The opening scenes of the film show how much Geppetto loved his son and brings us into the brilliantly made fairy-tale version of Italy Del Toro has crafted with co-director Mark Gustafson. In the wake of Pinocchio being sculpted, a Wood Spirte grants Pinocchio life to accompany the lonely Geppeto in his grief. What ensues is a beautiful story of acceptance, finding your place in the world and the beauty of having a childlike wonder about the world. A wonder we don?t see embraced often enough. Instead, we see how Pinocchio?s unique and energetic spirit will be manipulated by the greed of power and money. Most of you are probably familiar with the fox who tricks Pinocchio into joining his carnival to bring wealth to himself. Well in this movie Del Toro pushes aside the old trope of a greedy vicious animal and gives us a mischievous human con artist for a change.
Making the humans the monsters of his fables is a trend Del Toro has continued to use in his films. His scripts revel in reversing the role of the ?other? or monster into a sympathetic protagonist or side character while indicting the wicked pathos of mankind. Along with Pinocchio?s fall to greed we?re familiar with, this Pinocchio explores how the vile desire for power might indoctrinate young aspiring minds. Pinocchio?s adventure starts in the era of World War Two where Mussolini?s fascist government controls Italy. The toxic masculinity and glorification of war is embodied by The Podesta (Ron Perlman) who upon discovering Pinocchio cannot die tries to recruit him into the elite youth army camp. Simultaneously he is being tricked by the con artist who runs the carnival Count Volpe (Christoph Waltz) and Pinocchio signs a contract to perform for Volpe for eternity. Despite his singnautre being a smiley fac it seems to be legally binding and so Geppetto would have to pay 10 million lira to Count Volpe if Pinocchio doesn?t perform for him.
However, it is the law that Pinocchio must go to army youth camp to serve his country. Geppetto?s spirt weakens as he is faced with sending his boy away to army camp and having to pay a giant debt to a scheming con artist. In his anger and sadness Geppetto calls Pinocchio a burden, a decision he?ll end up regretting. Pinocchio?s reference for being a burden is to be dead like Geppetto?s son Carlo?s death one and so Pinocchio decides he will no longer be a pain to Geppetto. ?He chooses to go where he has been accepted and loved, striking what he thinks is a fair deal with Volpe to tour the country with him. Geppetto wakes up to find Pinocchio gone and realizes his love for him should outweigh any burden he feels from Pinocchio. So starts his journey to find his wooden son and show him how much he values him.
Pinocchio is a wonderfully animated feature that demonstrates Del Toro?s to bring his stunning film tableaus seamlessly to the world of clay and cotton. The number of impressive locations created in the film certainly make it worthy of a production design nomination as the film creates stunning towns, cities, carnivals, and mountains each distinct in its creation and backgrounds. The cinematography also? isn?t restricted by the miniature world as Del Toro and his team pulled off some incredible long takes and angles that play with the perspective of real people while immersing us in this fairy-tale land. The music also drops us right into the emotions of these puppets as Alexandre Desplat?s loving melodies continue to show his collaborations with Del Toro are some of the best modern film scores to play the screen. It?s use in the opening and ending sequences which, I consider to be the best parts of the films stand out as the emotional focal point of the whole story. An Oscar nomination for Desplat?s work would certainly not be unfitting. His composition stands in for the heart these stop motion characters often struggle to portray thought in no fault to the animation. The detail of the humans is especially impressive with their designs emboldening their realistic features like hair, eyes and tears which flow from all whiles making them fit in this surreal world.
The vocal performances elevate these mostly simple characters both human and creature as David Bradely as Geppetto uses his unique and mature voice to help us feel the sorrows of this old worn man. Gregory Mann as Pinocchio is very impressive as his voice is used to give Pinocchio this wonderous sense of childlike fascination with the world. His singing in some of this film?s songs are also very impressive. It is a bit of musical in case you didn?t know. The rest of the cast with Ron Perlman, Christoph Waltz, Finn Wolfhard does a great job with their voice roles with a special nod to Cate Blanchett in a non-speaking role as the monkey. Its especially good that Blanchett got to show off her skills in imitating a prime ape as without words she can give a performance that never falters to convey the proper emotions. Unfornately the way some of the dialogue is written fails the actors ability to be emotionally expressive in the film. Combined with some clunky plot points the film lacks the cohesive narrative that would make it the super entertaining ride the visual provide. Even with its lack of fluid writing the film manages to have a beautifully effecting, beginning and end. One which highlights Del Toro?s belief in love and humour. The script may shove some of those ideas in at points with margining success but by the end its worth it. The final scene is easily the most nuanced and mature part of the script and really highlights love in even its most challenging forms.
Guillermo Del Toro?s Pinocchio is available in theaters on November 18 and on Netflix December 9.