Pinocchio review – a mesmerisingly creepy live-action retelling

Matteo Garrone sends his disarmingly human puppet out into a harsh world in this retelling of the Italian classic

A blush creeps over Pinocchio’s carved wooden cheeks. His hands are clumsy and slightly too big for his body, but his delicately chiselled ears are disarmingly lifelike. In Matteo Garrone’s mesmerisingly creepy live-action reimagining, the misbehaving puppet is portrayed by child actor Federico Ielapi and aided by prosthetics expert Mark Coulier (Harry Potter, The Iron Lady). Their Pinocchio is an uncanny creature who nevertheless radiates humanity. The film is a PG, but children and adults alike might find themselves disturbed or else drawn in by the violence he endures (burning, kidnapping, hanging, drowning). “In this country, the innocent go to prison!” rules a gorilla judge when Pinocchio attempts to report two thieves who robbed him. None too subtly, the film suggests that to earn one’s humanity – in other words, to become a real boy – is a near impossible task in such an arbitrarily cruel world.

The source material is a neat fit for the Italian film-maker, who traversed similarly episodic fairytale terrain with 2015’s Tale of Tales. It’s also a critique of society that feels timeless or, rather, timely – and not just for Garrone. Two more Pinocchio films are in development – Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Netflix animation is due next year, followed by a live-action Disney remake by Robert Zemeckis.

Watch a trailer for Pinocchio

• Pinocchio is out in cinemas and on multiple platforms

Contributor

Simran Hans

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Wonderstruck review – enchanting interwoven stories
Todd Haynes’s time-slip tale for younger audiences takes an unfussy approach to disability

Wendy Ide

08, Apr, 2018 @7:00 AM

Article image
Hunt for the Wilderpeople review – Kiwi buddy movie
A troubled orphan finds himself on the run with his grizzled foster uncle in this unaffected, emotional story

Wendy Ide

18, Sep, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
Swallows and Amazons review – nostalgic adaptation
Arthur Ransome’s 1930 classic of bracing outdoor fun is brought to big-screen life

Wendy Ide

21, Aug, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
Queen of Katwe review – warm and winning
Disney’s rags-to-riches tale of a Ugandan chess champion will leave you with a lump in your throat

Jonathan Romney

23, Oct, 2016 @7:00 AM

Article image
Christopher Robin review – midlife-crisis drama or children’s film?
This strangely pitched story follows Ewan McGregor’s Christopher as he rediscovers his sense of fun with the help of some CGI characters

Simran Hans

18, Aug, 2018 @2:00 PM

Article image
The Art of Racing in the Rain review – a canine car crash
Kevin Costner voices a golden retriever who inspires a would-be racing driver

Wendy Ide

11, Aug, 2019 @7:00 AM

Article image
Children of the Mountain; Adama; Layla Fourie and more – review
There’s a wealth of African film on demand through Okiki and Mubi, from stirring drama to moral thrillers

Guy Lodge

27, Aug, 2017 @7:00 AM

Article image
The Book of Henry review – a toxic swamp of cynicism and manipulation
A precocious child’s voice fails to ring true in this superficial stab at tackling cancer and abuse

Wendy Ide

25, Jun, 2017 @7:00 AM

Article image
Clifford the Big Red Dog review – benign live-action film of the US children’s book series
Puppy love meets awkward class commentary in this family comedy starring Jack Whitehall and Big Little Lies’ Darby Camp

Simran Hans

12, Dec, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Tale of Tales review – bawdy and fantastical
Inspired by 17th-century Italian fairytales, Matteo Garrone’s thrilling circus of sex and violence is definitely not one for the children

Mark Kermode, Observer film critic

19, Jun, 2016 @8:00 AM