Now we’d be the first to admit that we’ve always had a bit of a problem with the story of Pinocchio being as it is about a old man who builds a boy out of wood for companionship . Goodness knows if the authorities ever believed Geppetto when he told them it was varnish on the boy’s face and let’s not get started on Pinocchio’s extending nose (‘Stop it!’ – Ed). It hardly helps that this version starts with Geppetto hammering away at his wood (‘You’re fired!’ – Ed)….as he’s a carpenter!!!
Based on an old fairy tale which, like the best in the genre, had some undeniably dark moments and for most of us it is the Disney version which many might remember as being sanitised but was not without its share of bleak moments (Pinocchio metamorphosing into an ass is the stuff of nightmares). We’ve had several retellings since including a 2002 version starring Roberto Benigni in the title role for which he was far too old to play. Now the actor returns in another version of the film set in the 1800’s this time in a far more age suitable role as Geppetto, a lonely carpenter down on his luck and longing for a son he never had. It’s a visiting children’s puppet show that gives him the idea of making a puppet himself from an inexplicably animated wooden log that he is given and sculpting a life size boy from it which quickly comes to life. It’s a freakishly creepy and unnerving moment as this is a live action version which might well haunt young ones and understandably so but once the familiarity sets in then the story goes about its business but focussing as much on the very dark elements of the story as much as the light.
It’s a well known story and veers little from its source material but be warned there are moments in this which might alarm, perhaps none more so than Pinocchio and his encounter with Mr Fox and his sidekick who try to con him out of his five gold coins and ends with them hanging Pinocchio by his neck from a tree. It’s not the only grim moment with Pinocchio accidently burning his feet off in a fire when he falls asleep. It’s hard to sympathise with Pinocchio initially as he a determinedly disobedient child taking any opportunity to bunk off school and getting himself in ever deeper and potentially fatal trouble (most kids are disciplined with a clip round the back of the head and as Geppetto is a carpenter he surely must have a wood chipper to keep the puppet in line). The tale has always been able to serve as a warning to children about stranger danger if nothing else with the story coming full circle to a heart warming conclusion.
The make-up is by an Oscar winning team who took three hrs to apply it to boy actor Federico Ielapi and is extremely effective looking both like wood but not preventing any humanity from shining through although we feel a substantial saving could have been made by casting any TV reality star in the role having seen several appear in pantomime and being so wooden it looked like the props man had thrown a chair onto the stage. It all adds to director Matteo Garrone’s beautifully shot and designed film with a cast of brilliantly made up supporting cast that includes a giant snail, a cricket, a gorilla and perhaps less successfully the blue angel. What may put some off this version is the subtitles which will make it far from ideal for younger children and at two ours it is too long but there’s certainly much love gone into this version of Pinocchio and it’s all on screen.
Here’s the Pinocchio trailer…….