Pinocchio (2022) Review
IN a year where three different Pinocchio films were released, Disney managed to create the worst version of arguably their most successful renaissance feature, being outshined by legendary director Guillermo del Toro in a somber reimagining of the inspirational fairy-tale that brings life to a played out story.
For the one person who doesn't know the fairy-tale, Pinocchio follows the self-titled wooden boy (Gregory Mann) after being brought to life by mourning father Geppetto's (David Bradley) wish to have a living son back in his arms. With the guidance of appointed conscious and literal cricket Jiminy Cricket (Ewan McGregor), Pinocchio begins the arduous journey of becoming Geppetto's new-found son, all while learning what it takes to be a real boy.
Despite being the third retelling on an already played-out tale, Guillermo del Toro manages to breathe new life into the story by instilling mature themes to famous scenes while still maintaining the childlike wonder that made Pinocchio an enduring classic and a household name for decades upon decades. The opening scene showcasing Geppetto's grief following the loss of his only son is a phenomenal example of this which encapsulates the sadness and emptiness our protagonist is experiencing, never dragging on or making the audience feel anything except despair for the father figure.
One of the major reasons Netflix's version managed to stand out from the abundance of interpretations this year was due to its masterful use of stop-motion animation, with majority of the scenes shown literally being hand crafted to perfection in order to dictate a near-perfect pace, never feeling too long or too short despite being the longest stop-motion animated film in history clocking in at nearly 2 hours. The editing and cinematography in turn is enhanced by the animation style, capitalising on the stop-motion to create impeccable shots and transitions which would otherwise be out of commission if traditional filmmaking technics were utilised.
Not only are the visuals spectacular, but the voice actors also deliver superb performances, enhancing the emotional attachment between each character and their respective relationship. McGregor is the first voice viewers will hear via narration, setting the bar for impeccable vocals by giving us an all-time great interpretation of Jiminy Cricket, arguably the most important character besides Pinocchio that needs to be handled with the most care. McGregor nails the perfect balance of intelligent wisdom and gut-wrenching humour, never transitioning too far into the latter to the point where he wouldn't be taken seriously. Veteran actors Cate Blanchett, Christoph Waltz, Ron Perlman and John Turturro also deliver wonderful performances, but you can't talk about great performances without mentioning the main man/boy: Pinocchio. Gregory Mann portrays the wooden wonder in a surprisingly charming performance, oblivious to the point where it becomes overbearing while somehow doing a complete one-eighty, becoming lovably charming and as believable as an anthropomorphic wooden doll can be.
Arguments can be made whether the film was hurt by being the third Pinocchio movie to release in one year, but there is no argument that it's the best interpretation since 1940. Guillermo del Toro's version sets itself apart by featuring a uniquely-beautiful stop-motion style that will stand as a pioneering achievement in animation. Emotional vocal performances and a sublime balance of mature themes and childlike wonder make Pinocchio one of 2022's best animated features...just not my personal favourite.