The Adventures of Pinocchio

(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 think chromakey.

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