Pinocchio review by The Grim Ringler
So when is a horror film not a horror film? When its an Italian live-action version of the childrens classic Pinocchio made by auteur/mad-chair-climber Roberto Benigni. I have to admit that this is by far the hardest review I have had to write during my stint here at Jackass, primarily because, well, this is one messed up movie. Its like a kids movie made by madmen. A movie thats sweet but twisted, beautiful but disturbing, and there is one image in the film that sums it all up Pinocchio, having been chased down by assassins during the night, is hanged by a tree, the full moon filling most of the frame as he hangs limply, and as the camera pulls back you see the Blue Fairy looking on at him sadly from her home, her beauty playing against the inset grotesquerie. Wow.
Essentially this is the same story as we have all known lonely woodworker makes himself a son out of wood that he names Pinocchio. Pinocchio though proves to be more than just wood and in no time is causing his father and the entire townsfolk trouble as he runs about experiencing life to the fullest. This inquisitiveness leads to Pinocchio many sorrows for he and his father, chief among them being that they lose one another and wonder if they will ever feel each others embrace again. Pinocchio is not a bad boy, but he is sort of the archetype of the young rascal (think Bart Simpson) that doesnt mean to do bad things but just ends up doing them because he is so curious. Sent to help him along his way is Mr. Cricket, a man-cricket that is trying desperately to play Pinocchios conscious but never seems to get through to our little hero. Luckily though Pinocchio has a surrogate mother in the guise of the Blue Fairy, who is always there when he needs her, looking after him, and helping him to see the err of his ways until he can finally be reunited with his father.
Unlike the Disney classic, this version is not white washed and happy, it is at times very melancholy and I would imagine follows the book more closely, becoming more of a Grimms Fairy Tale than we are used to it being. Characters die, people are evil, Pinocchio is willful and selfish, and heck, even Gepetto is rather selfish towards the end, but there is a heart beneath it all, a heart that, while dulled by the droning of American voice dubbing, beats strongly. Pinocchio cares for his friends, and in the end, is willing to do anything for Gepetto, and fears, above all else, that he will disappoint Blue Fairy. Now is this going to top the Disney movie in peoples hearts and minds? Hell no! This will, at best, become a camp classic, which is sad but sort of understandable. The movie is so bizarre and so twisted that you really cant expect it to be anything but reserved for the more curious and twisted among us. Is that fair? Eh, maybe, maybe not.
In all honesty, its a pretty good movie, though a bit foggy the movie moves like a kids book, jumping in logic, pacing, and story, and sacrificing all three in order to get to the point. It does hurt the movie, and gives it a bit of a surreal bend, but I think that it simply reflects his take on the book. What really hinders the movie to me though is the dreadful dubbing that Miramax thrust on the film, which all but ruined a very beautifully made film for me. Seeing a middle-aged man portraying a boy-puppet is bad, seeing him dressed as a harlequin is worse, but hearing the voice of a teenage American boy come out of his mouth is nightmarish. I pray I get a chance to enjoy this film in its original Italian so I can see how the movie stands up. Overall though, this is a stunningly made film and really makes you wonder if Benigni wouldnt be better served focusing on his directing more than his acting. The acting in the film is good, though, again, odd because it all plays so dream-like, but you really are pulled into this world (kinda like you are in Amelie, another foreign fairy tale that sometimes leaves logic behind gleefully) and do care about Pinocchio and his fate. And if nothing else, this film is something to behold for the sets and set design, which are simply stunning.
Odds are you wont catch this in a theater because it was a gamble to release it here, dubbed or not (though a small one I would guess), and is probably not long for theaters. But it is worth seeing. Far from perfect, and more than a bit odd, it is something to behold and is a nice reminder that not all foreign films are drab talking-head dramas about existential boredom and Dogma 97. Just hope that the movie makes it to DVD with subtitles and not dubbed. As a film seven. As an Americanized film six.
7 out of 10 Jackasses