Worth A Look: 10.26%
Pretty Bad: 7.69%
Total Crap: 74.36%
2 reviews, 27 user ratings
by Collin Souter
Something came over me. I awoke Sunday morning compelled to see Roberto Benigni’s “Pinocchio.” I don’t know why. I don’t know where to begin in explaining it. I just knew it was out there and nobody talked about it. Nobody mentioned it. It barely registered on the weekend radar. Somebody had to step up to the plate and give it a swing. Who would it be? Why did everybody shudder with fear at the sight of the poster? After spending the past four days with “The Hours,” “About Schmidt,” “Catch Me If You can,” “Chicago,” “Talk To Her” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” I felt it may be time to actually take a chance on something. The aforementioned movies had been pre-sampled for me. I knew they would be, at the very least, decent. But “Pinocchio.” Nobody saw “Pinocchio.” Nobody touched it. I had to investigate.I walked up to the ticket window on early Sunday morning. I presented the cashier with my hard-earned cash: $6.50. “One for ‘Pinocchio,’ please.”
"This year, Santa put a movie in the stockings for naughty children"
The lady cashier snapped out of her vacant zombie expression usually reserved for patrons of “Maid In Manhattan.” She took notice of me and a look of grave concern came over her.
“Sir, don’t you mean ‘The Two Towers’?”
“No,” I replied. “I need to see ‘Pinocchio.’”
“But… Sir, we have ‘The Two Towers.’ We have ‘Harry Potter.’ ‘Bowling For Columbine,’ ‘Catch Me If You Can,’ ‘Antwone Fisher.’”
“NO!” I shouted. “’Pinocchio’”
She got off her stool and leaned in toward me. “Sir,” she said with the utmost urgency in her tone. “You are giving me six dollars and fifty cents. Don’t you want something in return? This is a tough economy. You will never, ever get that money back. Think about that next time your car runs out of gas and your checkbook is empty!”
I have to admit she had me there. But I didn’t blink. I stood my ground. I had a job to do.
Now she knew. Now she could see the seriousness of the situation. But I gotta hand it to her, she didn’t back down either. She swallowed hard, her burgundy lips trembled as she took one last stand, and all, mind you, for the good of my health. God bless this woman.
“I,” she said. “Am not going to watch you throw your life away!” Now, she talked as if she knew me. “Look around you. You have people who love you, people who want you to live every minute to the fullest, people who hurt easily, and when you do something foolish like see ‘Pinocchio’ on a Sunday morning, all sympathy and understanding from your loved ones will parish!”
This she said as though trying to nag at my conscience, to which I lashed out, “WHO ARE YOU TO PLAY GOD!?!” I slammed my money down onto the counter. “’Pinocchio’! You have it. I want it.”
That stopped her. She gave me the ticket. An elderly man in a tweed coat grabbed my arm as I walked away from the ticket window.
“Go with God, son” he said.
I walked into the auditorium where 16 other people apparently had the same conflict. Fathers had taken their children and the looks in the fathers’ eyes suggested that they had been kicked out of the house for being so ignorant. “Pinocchio” was their punishment. It’s hard to think of 16 people in my neck of the woods feeling that same tractor beam that lured me into the multiplex on this beautiful December morning, but there they were.
The trailers started. “Shoalin Soccer,” “The Piglet Movie,” and “The Hours.” Yes, “The Hours.”
Then came the actual movie. I braced myself. Now, understand, I am a big fan of Robert Benigni’s masterpiece “Life Is Beautiful.” He cracked me up on the Oscars and on Letterman. I admire this guy. Most people want to slap him around with a wrench and that’s fine. In fact, after seeing this movie, it may be time to figure on other weapons as well. Pinocchio being played by a man with in-growing facial hair is just plain wrong and unsettling.
The movie opens with a giant tree log going crazy down the street and wreaking havoc amongst the town folk, all of whom, of course, mistake it for Chris Klein. The piece of wood falls in the hands of Jepetto, the puppet maker and… Oh, hell, everybody knows the story, and if that’s the case, why would parents take their kids to see it? Doesn’t everybody have a traumatic, nightmarish reaction to the story of Pinocchio, be it from Disney or Jonathan Taylor Thomas? What about the animated efforts “Pinocchio In Outer Space” or “Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night?” Yes, what about them? I don’t know. They were in the Leonard Malton book, so I figured they would be worth mentioning, because they may have actually killed some people. This movie will surely do that as well.
Yet what makes “Pinocchio” such a creepy experience—the same kind of creepiness one feels when watching “The Terror of Tiny Town” or The Anna-Nicole Show—is that it’s dubbed in English! (Although some have reported seeing the subtitled version, which kids love by the way) I have a rule. When I write a review, I will not name the actors on screen or give them credit if I can’t hear their real voices. I associate dubbed movies with that scene in “Naked Lunch,” where there seems to be some sort of secret code being spoken amongst the actors that I am not allowed to hear. Imagine a hyper-active Robert Benigni with the voice of Breckin Meyer, who sounds like Martin Short!
The rest of the vocal talent roster almost reads like a who’s-who of crap: Jim Belushi, John Cleese, Glenn Close, Eric Idle, Topher Grace, Eddie Griffin, Kevin James, Queen Latifah, Cheech Marin and Regis Philbin. Yes, Regis Philbin. They all sounded as though they were standing right there behind me reading their dialogue off the page sight unseen. “Pinocchio” may have the worst dubbing job since “Gamera Vs. Zigra.” As for the actors on screen, let’s just say that not even Fellini would know what to make of this Italian freakshow.
“Pinocchio” will make you and your children want to be dead. Fathers who had taken their kids to see this movie had a look on their faces as though they were thinking, “Man, if only I had pulled out on time, I wouldn’t be here.” “Pinocchio” is sometimes a very pretty movie, but several images will haunt you and your children: Roberto Benigni hopping around in tight pajamas. The two con men who bare a striking resemblance to Bob and Harvey Weinstein. Pinocchio hanging from a noose, which to me signaled the end of the movie (No such luck). In fact, a half-hour into “Pinocchio,” an infant started crying, “WHAAAAAAAA! WHAAAAAAA! MOMMMYYY, I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE ANYMORE,” at which point, a woman turned around and told me to be quiet.
I understood early on why the projectionist decided to leave the house lights on during the entire movie. It really does make it easier for people who will no doubt leave right in the middle of this thing. Nobody got up and complained to the manager. Nobody felt blown-off. It was a courtesy call on the part of the man in the booth. He was looking out for us, just as the ticket cashier looked out for me. Like the wooden puppet of the Disney movie I know and love, I came away from the experience crying from traumatic stress, yet somehow I had grown. I walked up to the ticket cashier and thanked her.
“I’m sorry, ticket lady,” I said with tears in my eyes like a 12-year-old in a Frank Capra movie. “I’ll never do that a-gin! You were right all along. I have a wonderful life full of people who love me.”
She smiled back at me, like Glinda the Good Witch Fairy. “Now, don’t you feel silly for giving into such temptations?” she asked.
“I’ll say!”I went home that day with a fresh outlook. Thank God I don’t have kids. And if I did, thank God I’m not ignorant to bring them to “Pinocchio.” I lit a candle and said a prayer for the fathers and mothers who showed up that fateful Sunday morning with their kids in tow. Imagine the tykes who go to school the next day and brag to their friends, “Hey guys, my parents took me to see ‘Pinocchio.’” Not “The Two Towers.” Not “Harry Potter.” Not even “The Wild Thornberries Movie.” But “Pinocchio.” I can only picture the poor kid being ridiculed mercilessly while being force-fed apple-flavored fruit roll-ups and gobs of wet wood chips. You’re better off lying, kid, just as I was better off staying home. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to give my conscience a swift kick in the nuts.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=6493&reviewer=233
originally posted: 12/30/02 16:47:42
|OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.