The fact that Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a visual delight is not a surprise. The fact that this stop-motion adventure-drama is one of the most enriching and engaging movies of the year may be.
This Pinocchio, unlike the Disney version most of us are familiar with (at a least as a distant memory, assuming most people skipped the critically panned live-action remake released earlier this year), is a dark and emotionally deep experience about trauma, grief, loss, and love. Death plays a central role in the film—Giuseppe’s real son dies in the early minutes thanks to an aerial bombing, and Pinocchio dies repeatedly throughout, causing him to encounter a being in line with something you’d expect from del Toro’s acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth—which puts the question of “What is the value of life?” front and center.
More importantly, Pinocchio simply plays to del Toro’s strengths in a multitude of ways. The stop-motion animation allows his unique imagination to run wild, visually and otherwise. The “creature” design is incredible, the world building phenomenal. You don’t want to take your eyes off the screen. Further, for a movie about death, the story is teeming with life and energy; everything is fluid and fascinating, the script clever and memorable. This new Pinocchio also boasts several enjoyable musical numbers.
While certainly not for small kids, I’d be hard-pressed to not recommend such a movie. Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a beautifully done piece of filmmaking and one of the most unique movies of the year. It may also be one of the year’s best.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.