(especially for kids)
If you're going to make a children's film then why not start with
the tale of a master storyteller? In this case, it's Carlo
Collodi and his legendary child with large eyes. He might be
made of wood, but he's got a heart of pine. As a young man,
puppetmaker Gepetto (Martin Landau) was unable to declare his
love for the beautiful Leona (Genevieve Bujold) and so carved a
heart with their initials into a tree instead. Many years later,
a log from this tree containing the heart unwittingly becomes
Gepetto's masterpiece, Pinocchio. And, lo and behold, Pinocchio
can walk and talk just like a real boy with a wooden head.
Living a life as normally as can be expected under the
circumstances, Pinocchio suddenly discovers that each time he
tells a lie his nose grows. The nose knows. And like all little
boys, he winds up sticking his nose where it doesn't belong.
The evil showman Lorenzini knows a good thing when he sees it and
immediately begins devising plans to gain control of the wooden
wonder. And lots more follows including a giant sea monster and
a wild theme park (take my advice and don't drink the water).
Writer-director Steve Barron joins forces once again with Jim
Henson's Creature Shop for the first time since Teenage Mutant
Ninja Turtles. Although myriad magical things can be done
nowadays with animatronics, Pinocchio never manages to get the
stiffness out of his joints until the very end, but this must be
a common situation when animating puppet forms and keeping their
puppet-likeness. His distracting way of walking kept making me
Superb points for production designer Allan Cameron's fabulous
Terra Magica, the park where bad boys bray.
Udo Kier, as Lorenzini, adds another screen appearance to his
wild and weird collection. He really knows how to shake a
performance out of any oddity, and I bet he was madly
enthusiastic about the costumes they dressed him in (which makes
me realize, come to think of it, what a wonderful Captain Hook he
would have made). Following on, wonderfully, in this entourage
are Rob Schneider as the dim-witted Volpe and delicious Bebe
Neuwirth who, in her role as Felinet, looks like she took more
than a few pointers from Julie Newmar's Catwoman. David Doyle
never actually appears, although he pulls a 'Charlie' as the
voice of Pepe the Cricket. And Dawn French can't seem to stay
away from the pastries.
Kids will undoubtedly love it. In another time and place someone
might have incorporated this puppet-tale of Collodi, a political
journalist and disillusioned veteran of Garibaldi's army, into a
sharper and more biting inditement. After all, the main
character is an offshoot of Commedia del Arte's resident
anarchist Punchinello. Although the producers pride themselves
on rendering a more faithful interpretation of the classic than
ever seen before, it still misses any analysis or condemnation
of social and political ills. Or did I miss something?
As far as adults are concerned, Martin Landau and Udo Kier are
far more interesting than little wooden head. Eyore!
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett