Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio Review: You might be wondering if the naughty little puppet will make it out of “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” a stop-motion animated adaptation of the children’s classic, alive by the time a Fascist hard-liner yells this death threat.
As the story progresses, Pinocchio is assaulted by thugs, ran over by a car, injured by gunfire, and eventually targeted by none other than Benito Mussolini. Il Duce states in a cartoonish accent, “These puppets, I do not like,” before telling a henchman to kill Pinocchio. In the end, the world is a dangerous place.
The serialisation of “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Lorenzini (writing as Carlo Collodi) began in 1881, and the book for children was released in 1883. In the first scene, a magical plank of wood falls into the hands of Geppetto, a lowly woodcutter, and the surreal and terrible story begins.
In an effort to “earn a bit of bread and a drink of wine,” he sets out to fashion a marionette. Instead, he makes Pinocchio, a rebellious puppet who longs to be a boy but instead winds up in jail, on the verge of being hanged, and nearly skinned after being turned into a donkey. In another scene, he uses a hammer to kill a talking cricket.
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The year 2020 saw the release of Matteo Garrone’s live-action Pinocchio adaptation, starring Roberto Benigni as Geppetto, while September brought the release of Robert Zemeckis’ live-action/animation hybrid retelling of the story, also starring Tom Hanks as Geppetto.
It’s not hard to understand why Collodi’s tale appealed to del Toro, a modern fabulist known for his extravagant and meticulously portrayed horrific visions. It’s a strange and weird fantasy, much darker and more unnerving than Disney’s beautifully animated 1940 film makes it seem.
Attempting to use the story as a metaphor for fascism is as politically incoherent as it is ill-timed, and only adds to the strangeness of the original story. Of course, the film was completed before this year’s Italian general election, which came to power a party whose roots go back to the ruins of Italian Fascism (Del Toro co-directed the film with Mark Gustafson and co-wrote the script with Patrick McHale).
Image Source: imdb
The movie, which employs Fascism’s violent philosophy mostly as decoration rather than to explain the horrors of the time, is nonetheless haunted by the real world.
World War I is in full swing as the film opens, and Geppetto’s young (human) son Carlo is about to be bombed by a jet (from whose country is never revealed) (voiced by Gregory Mann, who also plays Pinocchio). Here we are in the 1930s, and Geppetto is still in mourning when he carves Pinocchio, who miraculously comes to life.
Soon enough, the puppet is up to his old tricks again, making friends with a chatty, charmless cricket (Ewan McGregor) and mingling with the townspeople, some of whom, including a priest and a furious Mussolini toady, lift their arms in a Fascist salute. All of them are just puppets, right?
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