Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio

Directed By Guillermo Del Toro and Mark Gustafson

Starring – Gregory Mann, Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman

The Plot – Academy Award-winning filmmaker Guillermo del Toro reinvents Carlo Collodi’s classic tale of the wooden marionette who is magically brought to life in order to mend the heart of a grieving woodcarver named Geppetto (David Bradley). This whimsical, stop-motion musical follows the mischievous and disobedient adventures of Pinocchio (Mann) in his pursuit of a place in the world.

Rated PG for dark thematic material, violence, peril, some rude humor and brief smoking

GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO | Official Trailer | Netflix – YouTube


This isn’t your grandfather’s Pinocchio. As the fourth Pinocchio release in two years, Guillermo Del Toro capabilities to make this the defining installment for this generation felt bleak, but the originality behind his concepts makes this a refreshing take, inspiring the wooden doll with a thematic heft and luminating style that reinvents the property in all of the best ways possible. On the former, themes involving mortality, existentialism, and even Fascism cements a dark and haunting reality for the tonal consistency, and in establishing the time frame for the story in 1943, at the apex of Benito Mousselini’s terrifying reign over Italy, takes the story in such unpredictable directions that conjure the depravity of humanity once more, but without downright sacrificing the kid audiences, instead respecting them with the many realities of life in ways that educate without alienate with anything unnecessarily graphic or gruesome. The familiarity of the ages old structure is certainly still there, with the most defining events still holding relevancy over this fresh take but summoned with an originality in constructive creativity to breed something entirely different from it, tonally. As for the animated renderings, for a first timer in such, Del Toro invokes an alluring and at times majestic series of illustrations, with stop motion captivity rendering an almost Laika sensibility to the interpretation. Though the frame rates occasionally stall the fluidity in movements of the characters in different speeds, the consistency of its appeal supplants a rich definition of textures and sedated color that maintain the air of their charm, solidifying for Del Toro what might be a Best Animated Feature nomination in his near future. Beyond this, the voice work from such a decorated ensemble caters no shortage of infectiously riveting turns, bringing the heart and especially the strange of their respective characters to life in ways that offer each of them ample time to shine. Mann endears us to the naivety, but especially the innocence of the titular protagonist, initially emulating the annoyance and neuroses of a child seamlessly, before evolving a blanketing sensitivity that materializes as a result of the blunt impact of life’s devastating circumstances. Likewise, McGregor charms as Sebastian J Cricket, David Bradley invites the frailty and overwhelming grief that dominates Geppetto, Tilda Swinton invokes intimidation and complexity as the Wood Sprite of the afterlife, and even the great Cate Blanchett hands in an unorthodox turn with the grunts and groans of a freakshow carnival monkey that continuously tests her already remarkable range in delivery. Each of them makes the most of their opportunities in ways that internally feel painful whenever we have to depart from any of them, and if nothing else the way Del Toro drives each of them to bring something substantial to their portrayals, regardless of time, says a lot about the respect he commands over the biggest, deepest ensembles that money can buy. Finally, while the film nears the ambitious two hour mark of children’s cinema with its runtime, every minute of its narrative is earned not only in the distance and elaboracy of Pinocchio’s journey, but also in the dramatic heft that is earned every step of the way in its material, making this feel like one of those rare exceptions where an animated property is handled with the kind of patience and respect that allows every arc and subplot time to properly click. Because of such, there was never a time when I was bored with the experience, nor annoyed with the pacing of the sequences, instead appreciating the many complexities and emotions that make up this crazy game called life that works best with our own vulnerabilities and mortalities.



While I thoroughly enjoyed the accommodating score from the great Alexandre Desplat, and have always enjoyed his brilliant work, I found the collective efforts of the film’s musical numbers to be a bit lacking in the appeal of their summoning. The tracks themselves are performed wonderfully from the talented cast, bringing an authenticity and believability to their respective talents, but the songs themselves lack long-term influence or memorability, appearing and disappearing just as quickly during sequences that rarely if ever give them enough time to breathe. It also commits that primary conflict with contemporary musicals where it forgets that it’s a musical by the midway point, with the first half relegated to six or seven musical numbers, before the second half barely has three. For my money, I wish Del Toro and the production just kept it a straightforward story without the musical emphasis. Doing so would’ve further distanced yourself from previous installments, all the while provided even more time for some of the many thematic impulses to materialize naturally in the context they’re summoned. Which brings me to my only other problem with the film, its dialogue. This is not something that is a glaring consistency throughout, but rather a few key instances where the intentions of the character or the lessons of a conflict will lack respectful interpretation for the audience to flesh out, and instead spell it out in ways that halt the progression of a conversation.


“Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio” is a masterfully fresh and intelligently stimulating adaptation of the age’s old grim fairytale. With Del Toro’s familiarities in tone and body horror fleshing out an originality in the concepts and animated designs, the film is able to breathe new life into this otherwise wooden shell, emphasizing that the strings of his tumultuous past are no more.

My Grade: 8/10 or A-

4 thoughts on “Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio

  1. It amazes me that despite getting several renditions of the Pinocchio story in the past few years that we managed to get one that actually sticks out in the best way possible. Then again, I don’t think we should be surprised since it is coming from Guillermo del Toro and your high praise for his original and dark direction is something I couldn’t agree with more. The layers of subtext in this movie are astounding and the fact that it still manages to have heart is immensely impressive. Beyond that though is the efforts from the animators and the voice cast are so talented and I’m glad that you gave each of them a moment to shine since they’re all so good. If the songs were a better more memorable and my personal issues with the story were fixed then this would absolutely be in my top 20 of the year. As is, I’m still so happy that I got to see this on the big screen and got to read such an enthusiastic critique for it as well! Marvelous work!

  2. I’m not surprised that Del Toro took a new look into the adaptation. I think I’m more surprised that it actually took a film with many different “remakes” and made something that sounds completely interesting. Shame that the musical scores couldn’t hang on to the highs of the film.

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