Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio ★★★★

As with Nightmare Alley, del Toro tries a lot of things that are brilliant in isolation (or, in the weakest sections, on paper) but he ultimately doesn't quite manage to fit them together into an emotionally and thematically coherent whole. The decision to relocate Pinocchio to fascist Italy is a perfect example: it's an ingenious reading – and a much-needed update – of the Pleasure Island episode, but it ultimately doesn't contribute all that much to the overarching story beyond limp Mussolini jokes and a more elegant (but not necessarily more poignant) introduction of Candlewick.

That said, watching these disparate but invariably creative parts play out is still a pleasure, from the gorgeous animation to the tactile designs to the beautiful matte paintings to the biblically accurate angels voiced by Tilda Swinton.

And even though it doesn't all harmonise perfectly, the moments that do manage to hit all the right notes truly resonate – most consistently those involving Geppetto, whom the writing and a devastating voice performance from the great David Bradley turn from comic relief/plot catalyst into an indelible character. Del Toro and McHale, whose Over the Garden Wall sensibilities make him a good fit for material that is loose and episodic to a fault, had the right idea in filling in these kinds of cinematiclly problematic blanks in the story. I'm also very fond of how they reconfigure Pinocchio's quest to become "a real boy" into a rumination on (im)mortality.

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