Film Review by Dean Duncan Aug 21, 2014

There’s a real tension between the deluxe, glimmering production design and the improvised commedia dell’arte components of Roberto Begnini’s film. (Commedia? Here’s an explanation, w’ Begnini’s method applying somewhat more than the subject matter to which he applies it: It’s a very productive tension too, maybe reflecting the prestige of Carlo Collodi’s original property, in service of that property’s gloriously digressive, transgressive nature.

There are any number of fortuitous, imaginative things here, in design, in concept, in the enactment thereof. Begnini has been known to be an attention hog in some of his past films, but though sometimes he’ll stage a scene to reflect his main character’s narcissism, in the end this is completely and triumphantly an ensemble piece. Each small part is wonderfully acted. (May I point out that Begnini/Pinocchio is a superb liar, and that he provides the best lollipop licking in all of film history?) Each episode has a Stan Laurel-like now-ness, but each also contributes to an impressively culminative whole. It’s funny, but what it really gets at are the paradoxes of childhood, of how the brat and angel so frustratingly and exaltingly intermingle. Most all of us like Disney’s Sunday School version, but this Pinocchio really gets childish repentance, in all its agony and sweetness. The same goes for family life, and friendship, and most all of the good, hard things that go on in this lone and dreary world.

The conclusion of all of Pinocchio’s travails is sweet, satisfying, and almost unbearably poignant. It’s in the source, triumphantly served in this adaptation, and not at all out of place on that similar shelf containing Don Quijote, The Wind in the Willows, The House at Pooh Corner, or your own child packing up and driving away. The carriage. His wife. The hat!

Note: we consider the English dub to be an utter disaster. Watch it in Italian!