Roberto Benigni’s take on Carlo Collodi’s classic fairy tale “Pinocchio” bears an unlikely resemblance to Fellini’s more grotesque carnivalesques. It may not come as much of a surprise that the story’s charm is noticeably lost amid gaudy sets and Benigni’s infinite flights of fancy. After shitting inside the Shrine Auditorium three years ago to the utter delight of an obviously possessed Hollywood, Benigni returned to Italy not unlike a ravenous monster contemplating its next awakening. It’s no shock then that Pinocchio’s best invention is at once it’s most telling and most frightening. A log falls from the back of a cart and violently thrusts its way through the streets of a small Italian town, threatening the lives of chickens and townsfolk before landing in front of poor Geppetto’s door. From this piece of wood emerges Benigni’s Pinocchio, a supposedly wooden man-child whose consistently rambunctious behavior brings to mind Chris Kattan’s dry-humping Mr. Peepers SNL character. The film’s stagecrafts are intimate and therefore bolder than the otherwise calculated artifice that defines and overwhelms the film’s production design. The film’s inside-the-whale sequence is sweetly realized though everything else comes to resemble deleted scenes from Moulin Rouge (see Grillo “Jiminy Cricket” Parlante trying to avoid getting crushed during a mad Italian party scene). Benigni’s major misstep here is that he remains entirely too loyal to the original Collodi story. Therefore, Pinocchio feels redundant in addition to being remarkably soulless. The Blue Fairy (Benigni’s wife Nicoletta Braschi) knows how to make an entrance but there’s an overwhelming lack of magic surrounding the film’s characters—the grotesquely effete Grillo (Peppe Barra) is a minor exception but, sadly, he manages to incur the wrath of the considerably more irksome Pinocchio. Benigni only superficially comprehends Pinocchio’s heartbreaking desire for flesh-and-bone, and as such there’s very little difference between the Pinocchio that chases after wild geese and smashes into garbage cans and the more mannered Pinocchio that gets to go to school by film’s end. It’s like watching an ass put on a blue suit—there’s still an ass underneath. Predictably, Benigni’s performance is liable to make dogs howl.
- Miramax Films
- 108 min
- Roberto Benigni
- Roberto Benigni, Vincenzo Cerami
- Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Carlo Giuffre, Mino Bellei, Kim Rossi Stuart, Alessandro Bergonzoni, Corrado Pani, Vincenzo Cerami, Bruno Arena, Giorgio Ariani, Tommaso Bianco, Max Cavallari, Franco Iavarone, Luis Molteni, Giorgio Noe, Peppe Barra
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