“PINOCCHIO is not for kids, but kids can see it if you talk to them about it.”

Guillermo Del Toro (GDT) on his latest film.

Twelve years ago today, I tragically lost my sister to cancer. Coincidentally, this past weekend, I saw two movies that deal with grief uniquely. WAKANDA FOREVER was the group hug the world needed to mourn the loss of Chadwick Boseman, and GDT’s PINOCCHIO is about learning the lesson, “When one life is lost, another must grow.” 

I’m mentioning my loss because I’m raw and emotional writing my review for PINOCCHIO. I had no idea I would watch Geppetto’s (David Bradley) grief in powerful stop-motion animation over the loss of his son. I thought we would jump into the “blue fairy” and talking cricket to see Pinocchio face off against some monsters. But this is a GDT animated film. And he does say, “Animation is not done for kids. It’s done for f*cking parents.”

So what is GDT’s PINOCCHIO? It’s a take on the classic Italian story told by one of the most visionary directors of all time. It’s a bold, original tale about fathers and sons that depicts a world where everyone behaves like a puppet except the puppet. It’s also a buffet of big themes, from needing to be “disobedient to survive” and accepting that “imperfection is perfect.” In previous iterations, Pinocchio has to change to become a real boy. In GDT’s version, the people around Pinocchio must adapt to his unique voice and accept him.

Technically, GDT’s PINOCCHIO is some of the best stop-motion animation captured on the screen. It’s gorgeous watching him animate the ordinary to become extraordinary. Pinocchio looks and feels like what a six-year-old made of wood would be. And don’t get me started on the lighting effects that capture the mood and style of the multiple worlds within the film. It’s breathtaking. I cannot wait to rewatch this on Netflix and see these lived-in puppets with all of their imperfections. 

My only complaint was the songs. None of them are memorable and are instantly forgettable, like the songs in another stop-motion gem, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. But you know what? GDT puts his heart and soul into this twenty-year labor of love. To quote the film, “he tried his best, and that’s the best anyone can do.”

GDT has made a career by depicting monsters with more humanity than people. He once again does it with PINOCCHIO. I can’t “lie,” though, and have to call out that even though it’s an excellent film, it’s not quite up there with THE SHAPE OF THE WATER or PAN’S LABYRINTH. I can say that it’s not a “burden” to watch this perfectly imperfect challenging film that should take home Best Animated Feature come award season. 

And with that, I’ll leave you with a few more passionate quotes from the GDT Q&A today:

  • “Form is story.”
  • “All my life, I’ve heard a voice saying, “live, live, live!” Turns out, it was death whispering in my ear.”
  • “The less we desire, the richer we are.”

It’s hitting Netflix on December 9th. 

Aaron "Dobler" Goldstein

Aaron Goldstein is a Product Manager by day, ludicrous speed content consumer by night. He’s a LA Film School Alumni and TV Academy / Producers Guild of America member. Aaron is a proud parent and dad joke enthusiast.

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