Oscars Week: Pinocchio

This article is part one of . . .

The Front Page: Oscars Week

Today begins The Front Page’s Oscars week, a coverage of some of the most anticipated and acclaimed films of 2022 which have been nominated for this year’s Oscars ceremony.

For this week, I will be reviewing some of the nominees for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. I believe the nominees here deserve the same kind of attention as those nominated for Best Picture, especially as none of the nominees in the Best Animated Feature were even nominated for another Oscar for this year’s ceremony.

The Academy has received quite a bit of criticism for its views on animated films, especially for last year’s ceremony where Halle Bailey, Lily James and Naomi Scott wore Disney Princess dresses and implied that animated films are only for children and something adults have to sit through. The backlash against this statement is something I agree with, as animation is not only not just for children (even our own country has a long history with animated feature films meant to be seen by adults) but an entire medium for movies to be made in.

Below is my review of one of the most hyped-up nominees for this year: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio, especially as it won a Golden Globe for Best Animated Film here recently.


2022 was a host not just to one but two Pinocchio films this year; this is the only film of Pinocchio to be nominated for an Oscar this year. It is very easy to see why this adaptation snagged a nomination this year: it absolutely revitalizes the story of Pinocchio in a way that has never been seen before.

Master Geppetto, an Italian woodcarver grieving the loss of his son Carlo, decides to carve a brand new son out of wood, which is given life and named Pinocchio. Geppetto is delighted to find his new son has come to life and tries to form a relationship with him, but this is thwarted by the rise of Mussolini and the plunge of Italy into fascism.

The film’s theatrical poster.

There is a lot to like here: the stop-motion animation, for one, is strikingly beautiful to look at. The details in the models add a sense of realism to the film that helps viewers grasp at the reality of the situation, and the occasional fluid motions caused by the process of stop-motion animation dramatize events in ways that benefit the film in the long run, even if the benefits are not as major in the moment.

The voice acting is very good: all of the actors embody the characters exactly as on screen. There is little, if any, overacting (or underacting, for that matter). The songs featured in the film (the film frequently breaks into song) are well-composed and well-written, especially Ciao Italy, whose vocal performance by Gregory Mann solidifies it as the best song in the entire film by far.

Of course, we need to discuss the first three words of the film’s title: Guillermo del Toro. A director with many years of experience, he has become most famous for directing the films Hellboy (2004), its 2008 sequel, Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), The Shape of Water (2017) and his other most recent film Nightmare Alley (2021). His trademarks include Catholicism, inventive creature designs and practical special effects (i.e. those made in real life).

All of these trademarks are featured in the film, though they seem not as pronounced in his other works. The inventive creature designs are largely delegated to the afterlife sections of the film; they do look fantastic for how little of it the film contains. Catholicism is featured in the film too, but it is not as focused on within the film’s larger story. Still, it plays enough of a role to satisfy the audience. The practical effects are seen very obviously through the film’s stop-motion presentation of animation.

Pinocchio and Geppetto.

I will admit I do have some problems with the film, most of which concerns its story. There are some SPOILERS here, so be forewarned. If you would like to skip these spoilers, please avoid the following paragraph.

I can’t help but feel the film’s fascism backdrop does little to enhance the film as a whole. It has obvious ties to the film’s puppetry metaphor, but for how much screen time the backdrop receives, it ends largely inconsequentially to the rest of the story. This may be the point of it, but it still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I also can’t help but have this feeling that the film is occasionally muddled: it deals with puppetry as a whole metaphor, but throws death into the cards. Its attempt to balance both at the same time gets in the way of the actual film, especially at the end. Pinocchio doesn’t seem to learn from this film’s version of Death, despite teaching him lessons, and so the death portion of the message has little effect period. Even Pinocchio, in contrast to the 1940 Disney version of the story, doesn’t grow all that much as a character.

I also feel that the film has not made up its mind about its audience. Being rated PG, the film will cater to kids in some way. Yet this is not a film that most kids will enjoy; they would be left confused. Most kids are not going to know about the horrors of fascism, and this film’s approach to it is small in scale compared to how much of a reach it had to Italy. The Italian-language text in the set design does not help either.

Yet, most adults will struggle to like this film, especially when compared to modern tastes. Musicals have been out of the public interest for decades, and the film approaches certain topics in ways that only kids could really enjoy the approach to, such as violence. It is lenient on it, for obvious reasons, and it would probably leave most viewers grasping for more. It also replaces some characters and diminishes other’s roles, which will definitely disappoint fans of the Disney adaptation. Some adults will also find Pinocchio’s voice grating, though I personally did not. I personally found Ewan McGregor’s voice to be very grating, especially when he sings.

With the misguided narrative, no audience in mind and some other annoyances, I would normally not recommend a film like this. Despite this, the animation is brilliant (as are the performances), the ideas presented in the story shake up the story to a generally delightful degree, and the creatures are fantastic. I would recommend this film overall due to its upsides, especially if you are a fan of Guillermo del Toro’s other works or a fan of the Pinocchio story. My final rating for this film is a 6 out of 10.

Pinocchio and Count Volpe, one of the antagonists of the film.

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio stars Gregory Mann, Ewan McGregor, David Bradley, Christoph Waltz and Tilda Swinton. As the film is a Netflix Original, it is available to stream exclusively on Netflix. This film is rated PG.

This film is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

This article is part one of . . .

The Front Page: Oscars Week

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