Rating: 4 out of 5.

Just when you think Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pinocchio’ is pretty much like any other adaptation of the Italian classic, the plot takes a new turn, exploring new territory, forcing you to stick around until the end. Finally available to stream on Netflix, the 2022 animated movie does have a heart of its own, even though its basic structure is still very much like the popular version known to most fans – Gepetto is a heartbroken woodcarver, who lost his son and makes a puppet out of fine pinewood, hoping it would help fill the void in his life.

Set in the early 20th century, Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pinocchio’ has a definitive timeline and doesn’t unfold in an ambiguous ‘once upon a time’. The story starts off during World War I and Gepetto creates Pinocchio a few years later, when Italy was under Benito Mussolini, with fascism sweeping through the country. Like the director’s other works, ‘Pinocchio’ dwells into themes that would be slightly lost on younger viewers, like class conflict, the brutal futility of war and frenzied fascist fanaticism.

The stop-motion animation is the most striking feature of this film, from old man Gepetto (voiced by David Bradley) to aging monkey Spazzatura (Cate Blanchett), the character art is a visual treat. Ironically, Pinocchio the puppet has the simplest build in the movie, the other marionettes appearing through the runtime have more detail on them. But Pinocchio’s plain character design adds a touch of surrealism to the tale and becomes metaphorical for his childlike uncomplicated thinking. Voiced by Gregory Mann, Pinocchio is excessively energetic, naughty, disobedient and easily led astray, just like the original. Ewan McGregor lends his voice to the Cricket that serves as the narrator for this adventure-filled fantasy.

While there’s a poignant flashback of Gepetto’s days with his real son at the beginning, the old man’s (who weirdly doesn’t age) bond with his wooden boy isn’t fleshed out well enough for viewers to get emotional over their dynamics. Disney’s live-action version starring Tom Hanks does a better job in that department. But Guillermo del Toro’s re-imagination of the children’s tale with darker tones definitely wins in the cinematography area. Despite having darker overtones, each scene is clear, well-lit and clean. Unlike some recent musicals, I surprisingly enjoyed all the tracks in this production and never once felt the urge to fast-forward them. Watch it for the stunning stop-motion animation and music.

It’s a 8/10 from me. Stream it on Netflix.

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