GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO
PG, 121 minutes. Starts Friday at Westbrook, Madison. Runs Sat. and Sun. only at Mystic.
All that’s missing is Tom Hanks. Compared to Disney’s live action-meets-computer animation update of its 1940 animated classic, “Pinocchio,” “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is at least a little stronger in just about every way but one. With apologies to David Bradley, who voices Master Geppetto in the new version, we really liked what “America’s Dad” brought to the role in the film helmed by his “Forrest Gump” director, Robert Zemeckis. Bradley (the “Harry Potter” movies) is perfectly fine, though, and so much of “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio” is more than that, a work of stop-motion animation (enhanced by topnotch digital elements) that constantly astonishes visually while providing a few chuckles and heartwarming moments, along with some life lessons for young viewers. As its name suggests, it is a work by the filmmaker behind memorable works including 2006’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” and last year’s excellent “Nightmare Alley.” Del Toro co-directed it with Mark Gustafson and co-wrote it with Patrick McHale. This latest take on the wooden puppet who wants to be a real boy — the 1880s creation of Italian novelist Carlo Collodi — introduces us to woodworker Geppetto before the loss of his beloved son, Carlo. “Geppetto lost Carlo during the Great War,” says our tiny narrator, Sebastian J. Cricket (Ewan McGregor), the middle initial, we assume, standing for “Jiminy.” We witness the death of Carlo (13-year-old British actor Gregory Mann), still inside a church where his father moments earlier had been working on its large wooden crucifix, as planes high above the Italian village release bombs merely to lessen their weight for the flight back to base. Geppetto attempts to run back inside, but he’s too late, the explosion knocking him back several feet from the church entrance, from which the “perfect pine cone” Carlo had found rolls out to him. Geppetto buries the pine cone near Carlo’s gravesite, spending his time there drinking heavily even after a pine tree has grown tall. On another rainy evening, in an angry stupor, Geppetto cuts down the tree — now Sebastian’s home — and drags it back to his stop to construct a wooden substitute for Carlo. The next morning, a confused Geppetto is terrified to learn his creation has come to life, a gift given it overnight by one of two magical creatures performed by Tilda Swinton in the film, who charges Sebastian with watching over the new being.