Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio was one of the best movies of 2022. Described as the final entry in a loose trilogy including The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro’s take on the classic children’s story updated the setting to fascist Italy under Benito Mussolini, zeroed in on grief, and refused to sugarcoat its message.
All that has led it to be considered a surprisingly dark children’s movie that leapt headfirst into conversations about death and sacrifice. We admit that when we were watching it there were moments when we wondered whether children would really enjoy such a harrowing movie – though these fears weren’t shared by del Toro.
Speaking with The Wrap, the Oscar-winning director says there are shampoo commercials more harmful to children than this:
“In the most susceptible cases, it will need dialogue to talk about life and death and so forth. But I feel extremely happy to say that the many times we have seen it with an audience, kids seem to react with great curiosity and love. I think this movie is full of truth and love and forgiveness. There are more dangerous things in shampoo commercials than in this film. We’re speaking our truth and showing a beautiful story.”
We’ve got to agree, and if children walk away from Pinocchio ready to mock fascists and try to do some good in a broken world then mission accomplished.
The film’s success has been rewarded with a torrent of glowing reviews. It’s currently sitting at an impressive 97 percent positive on the Tomatometer with an 85 percent audience rating, completely eclipsing the terrible live-action Disney Pinocchio (which is at a lowly 27 percent. Some critics have gone so far as to say this is the finest onscreen Pinocchio in cinematic history, eclipsing even Disney’s 1940 animated classic.
So, if you want a children’s movie that’s not a hyperactive sugar rush and actually has something to say, watch Pinocchio over the holiday period. Your kids might have some difficult questions about mortality and politics by the time the credits roll, but hey, they’ve got to learn the importance of fighting fascism at some point.
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is available to stream on Netflix.