Movie #10 2023: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022)

The Best Animated Feature Film nominations are truly insane this year. Usually, it’s a category that has one clear frontrunner with one dark horse following it, with the others often just being almost ‘filler’ nominees. No shade – most of the nominees over the past ten years have been decent films, but so many of them are not “Oscar-worthy”, if you ask me. This year though? I honestly don’t know which way it’s going to go because every single one that I’ve seen so far has been brilliant.

Esteemed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro tries his extremely deft hand at stop-motion animation, and it turns out he’s good at that too. And let me just say, this is miles ahead of Nightmare Alley from 2021, which I thought was genuinely dire. There are many re-iterations of Pinocchio floating about these days, and the plot to this one is pretty much the same in that it involved a wooden puppet coming to life. This time though, it’s set during the Second World War and there’s a monkey thrown in for good measure.

Oh, Guillermo. Did you really have to stab me in the heart immediately?! The opening 15 minutes are like a sucker punch to the chest, as del Toro proves yet again that he’s one of the most talented filmmakers about these days.

Technically, Pinocchio is almost flawless. Not only is the animation so obviously original and meticulously detailed as it pushes the boundaries of what stop motion can be, but everything from the immaculate lighting to the interesting camera technique is wonderful. Layered over the top? A stunning score from Alexandre Desplat, which is accompanied by sweet and moving original songs. It would be a real shame if del Toro never worked on any more animated projects, because he’s immediately proved with this one that he’s really great at them.

What I preferred about this version to the original Disney iteration is that it brings some real world adult themes to the source material’s story. This is GDT, after all: he doesn’t feel the need to sugar coat the plot’s ties to fascism and youth indoctrination and therefore creates a truly dark film that is also littered with moments of joy. It is a masterful display of storytelling, that’s for sure. 

Now, there are some less successful elements to this movie, and although visually it is bordering on immaculate, there are things that don’t work quite as well. For instance, though the pacing is generally good, the length does mean that it overstays its welcome ever so slightly. Shave off ten to fifteen minutes and it’s an easy fix. Secondly, there’s something about Ewan McGregor narrating that is just so distracting. Every time he speaks, it’s hard not to picture his face rather than the animated cricket he’s voicing. It’s minor, but it’s an irritation nonetheless.

Overall though, I wouldn’t be at all mad if Pinocchio won that Oscar next month. (Even if I not so secretly want Marcel the Shell to take the trophy). It really is a wonderful piece of filmmaking, to put it bluntly, and though I loved Turning Red, it’d be lovely to see less prolific animation studios gain some recognition.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is currently available to stream on Netflix in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

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