Film Review – Pinocchio (2019) [Second Opinion]

Pinocchio, a classic literary fairy tale about wooden puppet who comes to life, and that was first introduced back in 1883 by the Italian author Carlo Collodi, has been already adapted for the silver screen numerous times. Perhaps the best known is the Walt Disney’s animated musical version from 1940. It however seems that filmmakers and viewers will never get tired of this touching story. The latest live-action adaptation of Pinocchio was recently rewritten and directed by Matteo Garrone in Italian-French-British co-production. Although the movie itself was released in Garrone’s native country in December 2019, many audiences around the world still did not have a chance to watch it due coronavirus outbreak. Finally, Pinocchio should arrive to UK and Irish cinemas on 14 August 2020. Does the well-known theme still have something new to offer?

In contrast to Disney’s childish version (which most of us remember the best), Garrone’s Pinocchio is faithful to Collodi’s original book. The storyline is therefore much darker and horrifying that you would expect. The film contains some gruesome scenes, such as the main character is being hanged by a couple of criminals from a tree or nearly drowned in the sea. Together with quite creepy visual look of a movie (even Pinocchio himself resembles more a weird robot than a cute puppet) I would not recommend this flick for small kids. This adaptation is not really a fairy tale but seems rather as some sort of surrealistic adventurous drama made by Terry Gilliam.

On the other hand, I do not understand, when the creators decided to follow this path, why they did not go even more crazy. They could have made Pinocchio as a proper perverted horror. Matteo nevertheless vacillates between these two variations and after every revolting moment brings sentimental solution of a situation. Therefore, I am not quite sure for whom he made his film as children might find it too brutal and for the mature spectators – who would like to see something totally unique – it is simply not strange enough. The script is also not very surprising and pretty much reproduces Collodi’s text. Hence at least for me, the director did not justify, why we need another Pinocchio.

But I do not want only to criticize. The movie presents plethora of stunning and colourful images of Southern-European landscape. The soundtrack is memorable and well-crafted. Mostly unknown Italian actors are believable too. The only real international star on the cast list is the Award-winning comedian Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful, Coffee and Cigarettes) who plays the puppet’s “father” Geppetto. Interestingly, Benigni in the past portrayed Pinocchio in the not very successful 2002 adaptation of Collodi’s book, directed by Roberto himself. It is worth to mention, that Garrone’s version is better and Benigni delivers this time a lot less irritating performance. The young Federico Ielapi (Pinocchio) did not have an easy task as he spends majority of footage as a CGI-made wooden creature. However, he managed to hold his acting ground as well. As a last thing I would like to add that I have seen the film in Italian language, so I am quite curious to find out if the English dubbing will adjust my final evaluation.

★★★


Fantasy, Fairy tale, Family | Cert: PG | Vertigo Releasing | 14 August 2020 | Dir. Matteo Garrone | Roberto Benigni, Federico Ielapi, Marine Vacth, Rocco Papaleo, Massimo Ceccherini .

Watch the interview with Pinocchio director, Matteo Garrone, here.

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