Review by Paul Stathakis | 2003

Robert Benigni’s adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s “Pinocchio” is the artistic version you thought you’d never see. But that’s not the catch. The real catch is that Begnini stars as the wooden puppet that comes to life and Nicoletta Braschi (Benigni’s wife, who also starred in “Life Is Beautiful”) plays the gorgeous Blue Fairy. In this marvelous quest about a puppet that yearns to become a “real boy,” Benigni proves he can win hearts but also drag things.

Of course, Pinocchio would not be complete without Gepetto (Carlo Guiffre), the puppet’s creator and father. Gepetto raises the puppet and teaches him to live right, to go to school and learn to spell, as opposed to stealing and fighting. But Pinocchio is a little delinquent at first, who is easily influenced by others and who easily breaks promises.

I love Benigni’s work. I love the fact that the man is so ecstatic both outside of his work and inside of it, as well. He knows how to make people laugh and knows how to make them cry. But I’m not sure he fully succeeded in bringing out the toddler in me with Pinocchio, which is a tale I used to read at five years old.

I will, however, admit that his version is one of the most beautiful films ever shot. Picture Lawrence Of Arabia, E.T., Toys (because of the colors), and then combine them together. You will get a clearer idea of what the images are like in Pinocchio. These images aren’t included only to impress young aspiring filmmakers but to tell the story much in the fashion of the classic storybook: through imagery. The sets are multi-colored, the settings are cozy, and the costumes are noting short of delightful and rich.

But getting through the first 20 minutes of the movie is where the problem comes in. Some find Benigni annoying while others burst into laughter when he speaks. At the beginning of the film, when he is first assembled and comes to life, he begins jumping around, expressing joy, praising his father, chanting, and dancing. Maybe I missed the charm in that, but didn’t think that was cute. In fact, at that point, some audience members didn’t make an effort to continue watching.

Everyone who has seen the movie wasn’t impressed. Most critics slammed the film, labeling it a hollow work of art without meaning or charm. It didn’t get a wide release, but I thought it made for a fine artsy-kiddy-type film. The dialogue is arguably fresh, energetic, lively, but not quite as intelligent and direct as the original tale or previous cinematic versions. This one beats around the bush, so to speak, but then skips to the point in an orderly fashion to bring us to the happy ending.

The positive sides are still present. The key messages are still incorporated and evident. Yes, Pinocchio’s nose still elongates when he tells lies. Yes, there still mystical forests and talking animals. And yes, kids should watch this movie. It is a lesson that teaches children of all ages not to disobey or lie and that if they do, they will be struck with misfortune and regret. It is a good-natured revision, very far from perfect, but far from being a total mess. Benigni likes to take risks and Pinocchio is an example. But after all, how much could go wrong when you decide to reinvent a classic with slight changes? Not much, except for those hardcore lovers of originals who enjoy dissecting adaptations. In this case, I was flexible.


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