Roberto Benigni's fanciful adaptation of Carlo Collodi's classic tale of the naughty wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a real live boy was a huge hit in its native Italy but arrives on these shores seriously compromised by poor English-language dubbing. Benigni, co-wrote the screenplay with regular collaborator Vincenzo Cerami and returned to Collodi's original material, so Americans weaned on Disney's 1940 animated classic may be surprised at just how bad a puppet Pinocchio is. In fact, he's every parent's
nightmare: He's lazy, refuses to go to school and is an incorrigible liar even though he stands no chance of getting away with his prevarication, since his nose grows with every falsehood. The moment penniless wood-carver Geppetto (Carlo Giuffre, voiced dubbed by David Suchet) is done whittling Pinocchio (Benigni, voice of Breckin Meyer) from an enchanted block of pine, the puppet is out the door and wreaking havoc in the village market, tormenting ducks, smashing wine casks, and overturning fruit carts. Pinocchio promises Geppetto he'll go to school, but the pursuit of fun and easy profit lead him astray. He sells his schoolbook for a ticket to a puppet show, only to be nearly burned alive on the puppet master's fire; falls in with the Fox (Max Cavallari, voice of Cheech Marin) and the Cat (Bruno Arena, voice of Eddie Griffin), shady conmen who promise him riches but leave him hanging from a tree by his neck; and follows his newfound friend,
Leonardo (Kim Rossi Stuart, voice of Topher Grace), to "Fun Forever Land," where boys play all day but are turned into donkeys at night and sold off like slaves. When the Talking Cricket (Peppe Barra, voice of John Cleese) tries to teach him the value of obedience, Pinocchio attacks him with a hammer. Nor will he listen to the Blue Fairy (Benigni's wife, Nicoletta Braschi, voice of Glenn Close), even after she tells Pinocchio that he could one day become a real, live boy if he'd only learn to be good. That Benigni, who turned 50 shortly after the film was finished, is too old to be playing a boy puppet is really beside the point; he's one Italian icon playing another,
and physically, he's actually quite good. But there's no getting past the shockingly poorly dubbed voice work of the English-speaking cast; Meyer's voice is particularly shrill and grating. Still, the art direction is often exquisite, and the anthropomorphic animal characters are beautifully realized through clever makeup design, leaving one to hope that the eventual DVD release will offer subtitles and the original Italian-language soundtrack.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: G
- Review: Roberto Benigni's fanciful adaptation of Carlo Collodi's classic tale of the naughty wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a real live boy was a huge hit in its native Italy but arrives on these shores seriously compromised by poor English-language dubbing.… (more)