This is not a kids’ movie. It is an emotional film defining a rewarding life by embracing death.
Just as he did with The Shape of Water (2017) and Pans Labyrinth (2006), Guillermo del Toro finds meaning in film by examining the dark side of life. Here we have a puppet carved out of wood who learns to enjoy each moment of life as death awaits us all.
Living in Italy between the First and Second World Wars, you watch woodworker Geppetto (David Bradley) lose his beloved 10-year-old son Carlo (Gregory Mann) in a bombing. He is left in anguish as he spends each day for years in a drunken state as he visits Carlo’s grave.
Geppetto carves out a wooden puppet known as Pinocchio that comes alive with the appearance of a wood spirit (Tilda Swinton). Geppetto has as much trouble raising him as his son as Pinocchio does following his new father’s instructions.
Ridiculed at church for being a demon, Pinocchio falls under the influence of count Volpe (Christoph Waltz), a villainous carnival manager and his monkey assistant Spazzatura (Cate Blanchett). Performing on the road in Italy to raise money for his desperate father, Geppetto joins forces with Sebastian Cricket (Ewan McGregor), a smart insect that narrates the unfolding journey.
The film finds room for the growth of fascism in Italy as Mussolini (Tom Kenny) rises to power. All of our characters wrestle to find meaning in life as they endure the Nazi salute.
Much more happens in the movie that I dare not give away. But the film’s strength comes from accepting that life ends in a death for everyone except Pinocchio. He learns to experience the joy of social relationships as his friends age and die. He values the time they spent together and cherishes the memories as he leaves their graves and trots into the sunset.
This is a movie to cherish. While life is full of mistakes, learn from Pinocchio and embrace every moment.
And let me end by saying it should win the Oscar for Best Animated Film.