Pinocchio (2002)

Genres - Children's/Family, Fantasy  |   Sub-Genres - Children's Fantasy  |   Release Date - Dec 25, 2002 (USA)  |   Run Time - 100 min.  |   Countries - Germany , France , Italy   |   MPAA Rating - G
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In the grand tradition of Jerry Lewis and Adam Sandler, Roberto Benigni is a comic actor who seems incapable of playing anyone or anything other than his firmly established screen persona, so no matter what character he attempts to assume, what you get is Benigni mugging, babbling, and gesticulating himself into an alleged comic frenzy. While Benigni's over-the-top style served him quite well in his early films, he truly hit a creative wall with Pinocchio, his lavish adaptation of Carlo Collodi's fable of a puppet who comes to life. Benigni is never convincing as a child or a puppet, but only as a middle-aged man with some sort of attention deficit disorder. And while his curious performance is Pinocchio's most obvious flaw, as the director and co-screenwriter he must also be held responsible for the hollow characterizations and puzzling leaps in narrative logic that truly cripple the film. And though the movie often looks remarkable (cameraman Dante Spinotti and production designer Danilo Donati certainly earned their paychecks for this project), it feels like an ill-conceived misfire from start to finish, allowing little room for anything other than Benigni's antics. (The only other character who has any genuine impact is Nicoletta Braschi (aka Mrs. Benigni) as the Blue Fairy, although Pinocchio can't seem to decide if his feelings for her are platonic or romantic.) The film's flaws are sharply magnified in the dubbed and edited American release version, with practically every vocal performance hitting the wrong note (top honors going to Breckin Meyer as a truly frantic Pinocchio and Regis Philbin as a circus ringmaster); the original Italian version, which runs seventeen minutes longer, is certainly more graceful and less aggressively odd, although by the time the credits roll it's still a baffling shipwreck of a movie, guaranteed to leave both children and adults scratching their heads in confusion.