Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio Review

PLOT: This is the story of a grieving father’s wooden creation brought to life after the tragic death of his son. It all leads to a familiar adventure, this time in the hands of Guillermo del Toro.

REVIEW: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a beautiful film. The stop-motion animated retelling of this classic tale is yet another example of the filmmaker’s care to bring his vision to life. The new feature, co-directed by del Toro and Mark Gustafson, presents a rich animated story with an impressive cast. The talent includes Ewan McGregor, Ron Perlman, Finn Wolfhard, Cate Blanchett, David Bradley, Burn Gorman, Tilda Swinton, John Turturro, and Christoph Waltz. It also features young Gregory Mann as the title character. The new take is alive with songs and music by Alexandre Desplat. There is oh so much to enjoy here, so let’s start with the story.

Geppetto (Bradley) is a kindly older man with a son he adores. That is until tragedy comes calling, leaving him lonely and heartbroken. Desperate, he creates a boy out of wood, but this “boy” looks nothing like an actual human. Still lost in sorrow, he longs for the return of his young son. When a Wood Sprite (Swinton) takes pity on his suffering, she gives Geppetto’s crudely designed creation life. It leads to a familiar adventure when the wooden lad named Pinocchio finds himself taken from his home and forced to perform at the circus. Will Geppetto rescue his miracle son with the help of the film’s narrator, Sebastian J. Cricket (McGregor)? You’ll want to tune into Netflix to find out.

One of the most refreshing things about del Toro and Gustafson’s take on this classic tale is just how old-fashioned it is. Many modern animated stories attempt to make their finished film stylish with pop songs and quick cuts and the like, but not so with Pinocchio. While there is music, it feels far more in line with something you may have grown up watching than something in the current Top 100. Even the screenplay by Patrick McHale manages to have a sense of timelessness about it. A tale told over and over again, it’s nice to see it given such a delicate approach from storytelling to visual design.

When it comes to the casting, it’s always a treat to see folks like Perlman, Blanchett, and other fantastic talents in a del Toro feature. Even still, the film’s heart comes from the terrific vocal performances of Bradley, Mann, and McGregor. These three characters help bring wonder and spirit to their work. And while we all know McGregor can sing, the little joke that plays regarding that very thing is pure bliss – I won’t spoil the fun here. Characters presented are colorful and inventive, like much of what you’ve seen from del Toro in the past. And it was delightful seeing talent like Turturro, Waltz, and Swinton completely embrace the quirky nature of the story.

The stop-motion work here is stunning. With an impressive group of animators, the film comes to life. And yes, that little wood block of a boy feels as lifelike as he possibly could. After all, the idea that you shouldn’t have to change for others to receive love feels all the more truthful considering Pinocchio’s design. A story of a father and a son that takes a few emotional detours and big adventures helps make this one of the most engaging animated films of the year. The opening moments may be harrowing for some sensitive viewers, yet this is a moving and profound telling of a timeless tale that examines grief and loss with care and understanding.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio brought tears and joy to my soul. It’s a moving story that balances humor, heart, and music. Thanks to the gorgeous stop-motion imagery, it also felt like something I might have connected to when I was growing up. All the voice actors are perfectly cast, and the songs are sincere and deliberately old-fashioned. And yes, it manages to bring something fresh to the story. A masterwork from del Toro and Gustafson, the film magically brings something new to a familiar fable. While it’s easy to recommend this when it begins streaming on December 9th, it’s a perfect couple of hours to spend in the theatres if you have the opportunity while it enjoys a limited theatrical run.


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JimmyO is one of’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.