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  • Jeff Beck

Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio: A Beautifully Unique Take On an Oft-Told Tale (Criterion 4K/Blu-ray)


The Film:


Beloved filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has taken us to some rather dark places over the course of his incredible career. From the humble beginnings of early works like "The Devil's Backbone," to the larger, action-packed "Hellboy" films, to the marvelous "Pan's Labyrinth," to his big-time Oscar winner "The Shape of Water," he's constantly immersed us in worlds of fascinating imagery. Just last year, he marveled everyone once again with his take on the classic tale "Pinocchio," which garnered him a third Oscar and some of the best reviews of his career. To celebrate his unique version of the tale, Criterion is inducting it into their prestigious collection, including the full 4K treatment, so as usual, it's time to dive right in and see what makes Del Toro's vision of this oft-told tale stand out.


As the film opens, we learn of how woodcarver Geppetto (Voice of David Bradley) lost his son Carlo in an accidental bombing during World War I. Several years later, while trying to console his grief with alcohol, he decides to make a wooden puppet in his son's image. That night, the Wood Sprite (Voice of Tilda Swinton) pays them a visit and brings the puppet to life, naming him Pinocchio (Voice of Gregory Mann), and instructing Sebastian J. Cricket (Voice of Ewan McGregor) to watch over him in exchange for a wish. Pinocchio is quite a shock to Geppetto and the villagers, and things are a bit rough at first, especially with the puppet being new to everything, but it is quickly determined that the best thing to do is to send him to school. However, on the way, he is met by Count Volpe (Voice of Christoph Waltz), a swindling showman whose temptations inevitably shake up the puppet's new-found life.


This being a Guillermo del Toro film, you know right away that you're not going to be in for a standard, straightforward telling of the original story, and right off the bat, it sets itself apart from the multitude of other adaptations with its gorgeous stop-motion animation that utilizes intricately designed models to breathe new life into this classic tale. As if the visual feast wasn't enough, the telling itself (as penned by Del Toro and Patrick McHale) is uniquely different, incorporating darker elements into the story, and going in directions that we don't typically see in your average adaptation. That is to say, it may contain many of the same story elements, but narratively speaking, it's a fresh approach to the material that sets itself distinctly apart from others like the Disney masterpiece from over 80 years before.


The other major element at work here is the splendid vocal cast, which includes David Bradley, Gregory Mann, Ewan McGregor, and Christoph Waltz. Bradley perfectly encompasses the kindly old man, Mann marvelously captures the wonder and naivety of new life, McGregor splendidly intones the voice of conscience, and Waltz... well, those of us who've seen "Inglourious Basterds" know how brilliantly he can play a villain. This is simply one of those cases where each performer was the very best fit for their part, making the story that much easier to get engrossed in.


Overall, this is a fascinating & fresh take on a story that's been told many times over the years. Perhaps it runs a little long at two hours, but the animation is so eye-catching, and the adaptation different & surprising enough to the point where it doesn't become too much of an issue. As always, leave it to the great Guillermo Del Toro to dazzle you with visuals that you won't soon forget, indelibly making his own unique mark in oft-trod territory, and ultimately giving us an interpretation that stands distinctly apart from the rest.


Video/Audio:


This edition of "Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio" comes with the film on 4K (Dolby Vision HDR) and Blu-ray (1080p) in 1.85:1 transfers of excellent quality. The film looks absolutely gorgeous, with every detail coming through crystal clear, brilliantly highlighting the years of work that went into its stunning animation. Likewise, the Dolby Atmos soundtrack is splendid, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and Alexandre Desplat's score in outstanding quality. Overall, as you would expect, Criterion has simply done a marvelous job with the film's home release.


Special Features:


Handcarved Cinema (45 Minutes)

Directing Stop-Motion (26 Minutes)

Eight Rules of Animation (7 Minutes)

Guillermo del Toro and Farran Smith Nehme (20 Minutes)

"Crafting Pinocchio" for MOMA (8 Minutes)

Q&As (67 Minutes)


This is a magnificent collection of extras, clocking in at nearly three hours, that primarily delve into the making of the film, featuring several interviews with Del Toro and the creative team. Anyone interested in learning about all of the hard work that went into the stop-motion animation will no doubt be very pleased with these in-depth supplements.


Conclusion:


"Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio" features gorgeous stop-motion animation, an exceptional vocal cast, and a unique telling of the story that's different & surprising enough to breathe new life into this oft-told tale, ultimately turning this into an adaptation that stands out from the rest, while also fitting right in with Del Toro's wild & wonderful filmography.


Score: 4/5


Now available on Criterion 4K/Blu-ray.


Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.



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