A strange story - the tale of Pinocchio - deserves to be told by those who embrace the oddities of its nature while spinning it to be even more strange. Guillermo del Toro's knack for the macabre is exactly what Carlo Collodi's novel needed as it was after its reimaginings only teased how fascinatingly bizarre each iteration could be. del Toro's stylistic approach blends stunningly intricate stop-motion animation with pressing themes of grief, loss, resilience, parental anxiety, and anti-war ideology into a curious adventure.
Delightfully unusual, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio aligns with his previous approach to filmmaking and his enthusiasm for leaning into unconventional, almost niche, storytelling to create a medley of his strongest artistic elements. The dark fantasy genre fares well after being draped over a time-old story proven to be ageless in popular culture. While fiction has always reflected reality and has looked to the real world for inspiration, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio conquers life and diversity under Italian fascism through a more grim tone of voice. del Toro's malleable interpretation of Collodi's writing, brought to life through spindly animation, is not completely bleak. Glimmers of hope and humor break through the cracks of a somber narrative.
Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio carries over the familiar core beats of Pinocchios before it, but it's the cleverly creative imagination behind this peculiar Netflix Original that allows it to stand out as just that - an original. At one point, Tilda Swinton's sphinx-like spirit instructs Pinocchio to "break the rules. break them." This simple-yet-effective piece of dialogue bears more weight in its importance as it hammers more meaning into the atypicality of the film itself while harping on its lessons secured inside. The film taps into the reality of anguish without losing sight of its tenderheartedness. It does not fully succumb to the weight of gloominess that looms over it, but instead, it chooses to champion the unbreakable spirit of love, even in the face of hardship.
It was a mistake of Disney to expect that their 2022 live-action Pinocchio helmed by Tom Hanks would be anything more than wooden against one of del Toro's most impressive works yet. 8/10.