The acclaimed director and visionary Guillermo del Toro has now set his last two films at least partially in the carnival scene. It makes sense, too, that his fascination with carneys and devious businesspeople intersects with his original viewpoint of the world. The famous filmmaker has always told stories about wonder and heart at the center of a world void of wonder and heart. In this way, it’s no surprise that an old school story like Pinocchio was an interest for him.
What is a surprise, however, is that he was able to completely wash away the bad taste audiences had after seeing Robert Zemeckis’ version only a few months ago and completely inject new life into this puppet trying so hard to become a real boy. Perhaps the only way he was going to be able to pull this off was by turning to a different style of filmmaking in general, because Pinocchio is a stop-motion animated adventure.
With such a daunting task of retelling a tale nearly as old as the film medium and doing it in a way that felt fresh when so many films released in the modern day feel everything but, it’s a real testament to how Guillermo del Toro has significantly turned his own image to the cutting edge. Between Pinocchio and Nightmare Alley and his produced series of Cabinet of Curiosities on Netflix (which, to be fair, I wasn’t the biggest fan of, although I love the concept of daily horror stories and would certainly submit myself to the idea of it again of del Toro is given the keys), Guillermo del Toro has become Netflix’s cash cow – an equivalent to how Steven Soderbergh seems to be the auteur of choice over at HBO Max and Warner Bros.
And in every scene and image of Pinocchio, the classic vision of Guillermo del Toro wins out. The film is set in the fascist era of Italy, so naturally it brings together the same themes of his previous works. I’m not sure if I’ve seen a film of his call back to Pan’s Labyrinth nearly as much as Pinocchio with fascist generals taking up a part in the second act. Pretty quickly, you realize why del Toro was drawn to Pinocchio and how he saw his own personal auteur project connect to this age old story.
Reviews for Movies like Pinocchio
Stylistically, Pinocchio successfully molds itself around del Toro’s vision as well. Gothic and artificial imagery surround each of del Toro’s projects and Pinocchio doesn’t strain much from that vision. Now is probably the best time to mention that Guillermo del Toro co-directed this newest effort with Mark Gustafson. Gustafson’s background is much more involved with claymation and stop-motion so it’s easy to see where the two directors had to work together and exchange creative ideas.
The voice acting in Pinocchio is quite wonderful as well, too. Ewan McGregor, Christoph Waltz, David Bradley, Gregory Mann, and Tilda Swinton (who is quietly having a busy 2022 with Three Thousand Years of Longing and The Eternal Daughter) all feel so natural as the characters they bring to life.
Maybe the biggest complaints that I had with Pinocchio were its inconsistent tone and runtime. At times, the film digs deep into its bag of childlike tricks, but the source material is darkened by the mind and writing that Guillermo del Toro usually uses when writing his films that are meant for older audiences. Del Toro doesn’t typically make kids films, he makes films about kids. There’s a difference between the two and del Toro struggles at times to differentiate them.
The film is also about 15-20 minutes longer than it should be. Pinocchio balances a handful of separate plotlines and resolves them one after another rather than altogether. It isn’t the biggest issue in the world (especially considering it doesn’t quite surpass the 2 hour mark), but del Toro does seem to fish for storylines in the back half – almost literally.
But even with these slight issues, Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson’s Pinocchio is a beautiful and marvelous return for the ancient story after the dark places it went to the last few months. The stop-motion is clean and stoic, and the story breaths new life into the wooden child. Guillermo del Toro rarely misses, and this is another example of his gothic stories hitting just the right notes.
Where to watch Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio: Netflix
Film Cast and Credits
Gregory Mann as Pinocchio
Ewan McGregor as Sebastian J. Cricket
David Bradley as Geppetto
Christoph Waltz as Count Volpe
Tilda Swinton as Wood Sprite/Death
Ron Perlman as Il Podesta
Finn Wolfhard as Candlewick
Cate Blanchett as Spazzatura the Monkey
Tim Blake Nelson as The Black Rabbits
John Turturro as Il Dottore
Burn Gorman as Priest
Tom Kenny as Mussolini
Cinematography: Frank Passingham
Composer: Alexandre Desplat
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio on Letterboxd
Pinocchio on IMDb