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Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio (Netflix)

Guillermo Del Toro's Pinocchio (Netflix)

Pinocchio defies fascists in Guillermo Del Toro's magical reimagining.

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Guillermo Del Toro is a remarkable director. Many of his creations are uneven, both in terms of the script and the number of eyes in his fairy-tale characters, and his message sometimes falls flat when he attempts to tighten the emotional strings. Still, Del Toro has my utmost respect as a filmmaker. The reason is simple: he loves the medium of film more than anything else in the world. Every time I hear him talk about stories he grew up with, I am warmed by the passion, knowledge and, above all, love of film that he possesses. This is something that shines through in the passion project Pinocchio, a stop-motion animated version of Carlo Collodi's classic with Del Toro's Kufic signature tone.

There are two Gepettos in this Pinocchio interpretation: the old man who builds himself a wooden boy and Del Toro himself. Like a skilled carpenter, Del Toro tones his craft tenderly and carefully, assuring us from the first minute of the film that the timeless tale will be respected. In this version, Gepetto has lost his son during the horrors of World War I and decides ten years later to fill the void in his life with a wooden puppet. Most people know the rest, but in this film Del Toro has chosen to tell Pinocchio's story under the shadow of growing fascism. The director's and Pinocchio's mischievous disobedience is a contrast to the country's increasingly nationalistic and restrictive climate, where Pinocchio even manages to save the day by being naughty, breaking the rules and lying! It's as kind as it is liberatingly defiant, and means that the spirit of the original story remains intact here too, even if much has been swapped.

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio (Netflix)

The stop-motion animation, of course, does an incredible job of capturing the quirky nature of the tale, and in retrospect it feels brilliant to make a puppet movie out of a puppet - especially when the animation is this detailed and lovingly presented. At times, the dolls' movements are so fluid that you forget that hundreds of puppet animators have spent months sweating to capture tiny movements you would otherwise have taken for granted. In fact, everything from the smallest of characters like Ewan McGregor's cricket, a dwarfish Mussolini and giant monster fish are filled with life and personality, which is a joy to follow from start to finish.

Alexander Desplat's sweet film score is also finely tuned and fairytale-like, but the songs implemented in the plot feel a bit more like an afterthought. These song numbers, however, are mostly small character introductions that aren'tvery long, and the lyrics of the original song "Ciao Papa" are actually touching. At times the film also goes a bit astray when Del Toro starts philosophising about life and wallows more in the supernatural, which mostly clouds the film's theme. However, once Del Toro ties up the loose ends, everything falls into place and then it can be hard to hide the tears in the corners of your eyes. You realise that issues of mortality, individuality and parenthood naturally permeate the basic story, because although Del Toro likes to sneak in oddities, there's always an emotional thread to hold onto.

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Comparing Disney's latest live-action train wreck to Del Toro's passion project would be futile, of course, but it bears repeating: the difference between a corporate cash grab and an artist's dream is certainly palpable now that Del Toro has once again shown off his most creative side. It's been a long time since Del Toro's heightened realism has captivated me in this way and is not only Del Toro's best film since Pan's Labyrinth - it's also one of the very best Pinocchio films ever made.

HQ
09 Gamereactor UK
9 / 10
overall score
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