NOW ON NETFLIX! After years in development hell, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio finally finds its way to the screen. Director Guillermo Del Toro takes inspiration from Carlo Collodi’s classic children’s story and places the beloved characters in the center of World War II-era Italy. Told through very 90s Tim Burton and Henry Selick-style stop-motion animation, this latest adaptation of Pinocchio is visually striking and dives deeper into the characters of Pinocchio, Geppetto, and a moral talking cricket than ever before.
Geppetto (David Bradley) is a woodworker in a small town in Italy, poor in wealth but rich in life, always accompanied by his only son Carlo (Gregory Mann). Narrated by Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor), the film opens with a recounting of Geppetto’s life before Pinocchio and the untimely death of his son. The shadow of fascist Italy and Mussolini looms throughout the narrative when Carlo is taken from Geppetto in a bombing. Mourning the loss of his son, Geppetto begins to lose himself in grief, seldomly leaving Carlo’s graveside and crying out for his boy to return. In his sorrow, Geppetto crafts a wooden puppet, hoping to find joy in his life again.
“Geppetto crafts a wooden puppet, hoping to find joy in his life again.”
From the opening narrative of Geppetto’s loss, directors Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson establish this version of Pinocchio as an emotional journey. After Geppetto builds Pinocchio, a Wood Sprite (Tilda Swinton) breathes life into the wooden boy, hoping to bring Geppetto joy and charging Sebastian J. Crickett with helping the boy become good. Christoph Waltz portrays a charismatic, washed-up showman, Count Volpe, who serves as Pinocchio’s first temptation, promising a life of fame and sweets instead of following rules. However, Pinocchio’s struggles do not end with Volpe, as he soon finds himself enlisted in a Fascist youth camp under the authority of the vigilant Mussolini supporter Podesta (Ron Pearlman).
Christoph Waltz as Volpe speaks to phenomenal casting in Pinocchio. Waltz’s delivery is devilishly magnetic and feels picture-perfect for a once-great ringmaster. Gregory Mann brings a sense of joy and innocence to both Pinocchio and Carlo. McGregor is a meaningful narrator and adds some laughs to a story, constantly balancing melancholy with hope. Yet the biggest highlight of the characters and voice acting is David Bradley’s Geppetto. Every heartbreak or a timid bit of joy is felt in his performance, adding to the depth of del Toro’s exploration of Geppetto as a character. Bradley’s emotions build a foundation for the character, beyond the mere creator of Pinocchio into a man learning to love again.