Director: Matteo Garrone
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Federico Ielapi, Rocco Papaleo, Massimo Ceccherini, Marine Vacth, Gigi Proietti
Run Time: 125 mins
At face value, Pinocchio seems a departure for Italian director Matteo Garonne in that this is his first film to be aimed more for children than his adult offerings. Garrone found fame with his gangster film, Gomorrah and has most recently made the excellent Dogman, a film about a timid dog groomer who sells drugs on the side who is bullied by a thug that terrorises his community. However, Garrone making Pinocchio makes him a perfect fit as he directed Tale of Tales which was a satisfyingly grotesque adult fantasy feature. Can Garrone sucessfully add his signature to this well-told property?
Pinocchio is a visually arresting and generally interesting adaptation that is far more in line with Carlo Collidi’s 1883 children’s tale than the Disney version. The performances are excellent across the board and Pinocchio is well developed as a character in how he is subject to bad luck time and time again after he doesn’t learn from his previous mistakes.
The use of prosthetic make-up and practical effects rather than CGI is a bold choice and the film is all the better for it. There are numerous shots here which are haunting and awe-inspiring to behold, a shot of birds restoring Pinocchio’s grown nose back to its original length particularly mesmerising and creative.
However, Garrone’s crucial misstep is that the film is overlong and it feels like it’s ticking a checklist in its storyline. Trimming the film by half an hour or so would have really been for the better. The other big problem here is the tone. Certain sequences of the film are clearly aimed for more mature audiences. There is a scene of drowning and one of hanging that really shouldn’t belong in a PG-rated film and the film is all the better for it. However, there are sequences where Pinocchio is child-like which totally are more in keeping with Disney. If Garrone had stuck to his guns to make the film consistently more mature, this would have furthered this take on the material and given it more of a unique spin.
Ultimately, Garrone’s rendition of Pinocchio is a successful venture but one that would have benefitted from some tighter pacing and more conviction in its aim to be more for mature audiences. With two further adapatations in the pipeline by esteemed directors Robert Zemeckis and Guillermo Del Toro that are sure to be on the opposite ends of the scales themselves, it will be interesting to see how they compare and further the famous Collodi tale.