As is often the case, we’re diving into some retread territory today. Only two months ago, we last talked about Pinocchio, the wooden puppet who wanted to be a real boy. 

It turns out it was only two months ago that Disney and Robert Zemeckis released their version of this age-old story. This time, we’re turning our attention to filmmaker Guillermo del Toro as he puts his trademark spin on the fable. 

Pinocchio strikes a pose in Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio follows widowed Geppetto, a woodworker who, after his young son is tragically killed, carves a puppet in his grief. One night, a magical Wood Sprite, who feels sorry for the struggling man, brings the puppet to life. The puppet, who comes to be named Pinocchio, desperately yearns to be a real boy. We know the story. 

RELATED: Movie Review: Bardo: False Chronicle for a Handful of Truths

The movie features the vocal talents of Ewan McGregor, Gregory Mann, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett, David Bradley, Tilda Swinton and Burn Gorman. Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson directed the movie from a script del Toro wrote with Patrick McHale. 

Guillermo del Toro is one of the industry’s foremost auteurs currently working in horror and fantasy. So, it is undoubtedly an exciting prospect to have a filmmaker of his caliber tackle a well-tread story like Pinocchio. If anyone is going to bring a new spin and perspective, it’s going to be him. He’s never boring.  

Pinocchio touches Geppetto's nose in Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.

Coming just a few short months after its Disney+ predecessor, this film sets itself apart with stunning stop-motion animation. It isn’t easy to wrap one’s head around what is happening behind the camera. It doesn’t bring the clunkiness often associated with “claymation.” At the same time, the expression and style bring a humanity rarely seen in computer-generated characters. 

RELATED: Movie Review: Empire of Light

Despite being very much a work of art, this visual style will not work for everyone. The words “nightmare fuel” immediately jump to mind. 

This is where I came at the animation initially. I was originally a bit unnerved as someone who doesn’t traditionally seek out movies with this aesthetic. This is true with Pinocchio as a character. The design isn’t particularly cute (as Pinocchio often is.) These feel like old wooden figurines you’d see in your grandfather’s study. They’re elegant pieces of art, but there’s something uncanny to these characters. This is a fascinating visual experiment. 

Count Volpe convinces Pinocchio to sign on the dotted line in Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.

However, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the movie’s aesthetic. As mentioned, the style and intricacy in the stop motion crafts not only del Toro’s trademark flair but also the film’s stunning humanity. 

RELATED: Movie Review: Aftersun

It’s this film’s humanity that is its most beautiful aspect. This is achieved in tandem thanks to not only (as mentioned) the artistically crafted animation but also dynamic vocal performances. 

Ewan McGregor is the glue holding everything together as Sebastian J. Cricket. As the narrator and audience entry point, McGregor injects a brightness and humor that hovers above the darkness in the aesthetic. He’s a steadying force steering the story and is a perfect fit casting-wise. 

Sebastian J. Cricket tells his story Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.

Meanwhile, Gregory Mann is fresh and delightful as the titular puppet. In a story that feels almost vintage (notice, I didn’t say dated), Mann brings an exciting and decidedly contemporary flourish. 

RELATED: Movie Review: Armageddon Time

His Pinocchio is a real boy, as we see him today. He’s well-meaning, wide-eyed and innocent. This is a hallmark of the Pinocchios depicted throughout cinema history. In Mann’s hands, though, he’s also curious, occasionally overly rambunctious and even throws a temper tantrum or two. He wants that hot chocolate. He’s a real boy in everything but appearance. 

The only strange choice is the decision to make the film a musical. Ultimately, it doesn’t need to be and it takes a lot to stand apart from “When You Wish Upon a Star.” The songs, none of which are real toe-tappers, do nothing to truly compliment the beautiful story. They’re capable of pulling you back from the onscreen action.  

Pinocchio looks at the audience in Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio.

When all is said and done, though, in Guillermo del Toro’s long-awaited retelling of Pinocchio, the legendary filmmaker manages to do the almost impossible. He easily makes this dated, oft-told story his own. This beautifully crafted stop-motion animation stuns the eyes and warms the heart. This is a must-see during this holiday season. 

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is in select theaters around the country beginning November 18, 2022, before debuting on Netflix on December 9. 

Check out our other movie reviews here.

Movie Review: THE MENU

Kimberly Pierce
Follow Me