Pinocchio (DVD)

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Pinocchio (DVD)

Roberto Benigni (LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL) brings Carlo Collodi's classic children's story to glorious life in this big budget live-action adaptation. Gepett...

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Review of "Pinocchio (DVD)"

published 17/10/2009 | silverbird55
Member since : 21/09/2009
Reviews : 9
Members who trust : 4
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Super
Pro Jiminy Cricket, clever animation, lovely score
Cons Lack of good songs, too scary for young children
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"Pinocchio - a voyage to the darker side of Disney"

Pinocchio, the famous story of the adventures of a little wooden boy, was first released to American audiences in 1940. At a point where Europe was already embroiled in the Second World War and the USA’s own entry lay just around the corner, Walt Disney chose for his second film a fantastical adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s puppet morality tale.

The Story

The story of Pinocchio begins, not with the main character with himself, but with the film’s guide and narrator Jiminy Cricket (a cricket, mind bendingly enough!) He takes shelter from the cold in the house of Gepetto, a toymaker who has just finished building a wooden puppet. Just before going to sleep, Gepetto sees that one of the stars in the night sky is a wishing star: and so, as a lonely old man with only his cat and fish for company might do, he wishes that his puppet might become a real boy.

Of course, this being Disney, the fairy of the star decides to take Gepetto at his word. She transforms Pinocchio, if not into a real boy, then into a wooden boy with a life of his own, and charges Jiminy Cricket to act as the conscience that a puppet doesn’t have. But even though Pinocchio appears around four or five years old, he is as innocent as the day he was born (which is., effectively, the day the film begins) and it is his naivety and trust in others that lands him in the series of scrapes that form the main body of the film.

Characters

The good characters in this film display a great deal of charm. Pinocchio is an engaging lead character, although consistently upstaged by Jiminy Cricket, who gets all the good jokes. Gepetto is a wonderfully grandfather like figure, one with which any child could engage, and his pets Figaro (a cat) and Cleo (a goldfish) add a lot of humour to the early scenes before Pinocchio’s transformation. Where the film goes a little wrong (and remember this is only my opinion!) is the bad characters. They are – to put it bluntly – just a little bit too scary for very young children. Even when I watched the film earlier today to better inform this review, my insides still scrunched up when the foxes tried to lure Pinocchio away to the theatre. Stromboli is a demon of a character, and as for the man who turns boys into donkeys...terrifying. It is as though Disney wrote characters with all of the normal fear factor, but missed out the aspect of humour that normally stops younger children being so frightened.

Songs and Music

Like many of the earlier Disney films, Pinocchio is only poorly endowed with the big number songs that are more evident in later Disney features. When You Wish Upon A Star is the exception, a beautiful, dreamy song that opens and closes the film, but sadly this is the only song that I would say is of real quality. Hi Diddly Dee is good fun, but the lyrics are too quick to catch, while I’ve Got No Strings only has a brief amount of actual singing and is more an excuse for a great display of animation.

If the songs are weak, however, the music makes up the deficit. As with Snow White, there is an emphasis in the orchestration on sweeping strings and choirs singing in harmony, with good use (for those with an interest in music) in instruments such as the Cor Anglais to reflect the more sombre tone of the film. The score is intricately composed, beautifully performed, and compliments the mood of each scene wonderfully.

Imagery

I have mentioned a few times already in this piece that the tone of Pinocchio is darker than that of other Disney films. This is reflected in the animation – unless it is the age of the film that has led to the appearance of it being drawn in darker colours. Whereas Snow White is mainly outdoors and so has an exuberant Springlike feel, the action of Pinocchio takes place mainly indoors or at night, resulting in an impression of darkness (one of the features I remembered of the film when I hadn’t watched it for a long time). Many of the characters are well animated, especially the animals and Jiminy Cricket, and the subtlety with which Pinocchio is painted to give the impression of being both a boy and a puppet is very clever.

My only bugbear is the same as that with the characters – the fact that sometimes images are a little too vivid and so a little too scary. The key example in this argument is the scene in which one of the boys is turned into a donkey. We see the ears sprouting out of his head, his tail, fur growing on his face, gradually losing control and shouting for his mother until his voice turns into a bray. This would be acceptable if he was then turned back, or some closer given to the story – but in a manner entirely uncharacteristic of Disney, the donkey-boys are simply abandoned by the plot, with no conclusion provided. I know that these scenes are seen now as being masterpieces. But I know that as a child I would have enjoyed them a lot more if they had been a little gentler.

Recommendations

My recommendation will probably be obvious at this point. Pinocchio is worth watching, one or twice perhaps: but I wouldn’t say that it is the best Disney film by a long stretch. It is brimming with imagination and has the truest moral compass I’ve ever encountered, but it didn’t make me laugh out loud, cry, sing the songs or want to watch it again the minute it ended. I would also say that this is a film that should be watched first by the parent, or together as a family – you can best judge how scared your own children will be, and of course not every child is such a wimp as I was!

Conclusion

The second film from the Disney stable sadly isn’t of sufficient quality to rival the first. It lacks some of the charm of Snow White, some of the humour. Technically speaking it is brilliant, with a great score and clever animation, but it is just a little too scary and lacking a little bit too much heart. Jiminy Cricket and one good song are all very well: but they can’t lift this to the level of Disney’s masterworks.

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Comments on this review

  • TheHairyGodmother published 20/10/2009
    Excellent review :)
  • Timi_Hendrix published 17/10/2009
    A very well written review which brought back a lot of memories. I'm not sure about the scary bits, they did terrify me as a child but have also left a lasting impression on me and I now agree with the 'masterpiece' opinion.
  • pipsy88 published 17/10/2009
    great review. i loved pinnochio as a kid, but yeah it is probably too scary for kids lol
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Product Information : Pinocchio (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Roberto Benigni (LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL) brings Carlo Collodi's classic children's story to glorious life in this big budget live-action adaptation. Gepetto (Carlo Guiffre), a humble toy maker, fashions a marionette out of a log that has miraculously appeared on his doorstep. After wishing upon a star that his creation, Pinocchio (Benigni), would come to life, Gepetto's wish is granted by the beautiful Blue Fairy (Nicoletta Braschi). The only condition is that Pinocchio must prove his valor, and be completely honest at all times, in order to become a real boy. Unfortunately, this isn't easy for the enthusiastic puppet, who seems to find trouble everywhere he turns. After a long, tumultuous journey, in which Pinocchio is accosted by two corrupt thieves, turned into a donkey, and swallowed by a shark, Pinocchio is reunited with his father, setting up a final challenge that will prove once and for all if Pinocchio has the heart to become a real boy.<BR>Benigni's follow-up to the Oscar-winning LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL is a crowd-pleasing fantasy film, featuring beautiful cinematography from Dante Spinotti (HEAT, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL). The American release boasts the voices of actors Breckin Meyer, Glenn Close, and John Cleese.

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