Movie: How often do people enjoy a re-make of a movie, never mind think it's superior to the original? Very rarely, to say the least. Is this because we all have an idea of what a movie is "supposed" to be like and any deviation is unacceptable for us or is it the likelihood that the newer version will be churned out in order to cash in on the originals marketability? I suppose it just depends on the specific movie. In Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio, I think it's both those reasons and the ego of it's star who also directed, co-wrote, and otherwise interjected his own ideas into the movie classic.
The original story of Pinocchio comes from an old book written in the 19th century by Carlo Collodi. As most of us know, the basic version, as configured by Disney, had a puppet made of wood that is given life by a good fairy. He aspires to become a real boy and along the way, finds that life is full of temptations that set him off course. From huge whales to the circus to evil characters wanting to kidnap wayward youth and turn them into donkey's for sale, Benigni's version of the tale remained mostly true to the Disney update (in 1940 I believe) although with a darker slant as the original book was known for. It even has a magical cricket that acts, in a few cases at least, as a conscience to the young puppet.
So what about this movie is so bothersome to those who watch it? Is it the fact that to get this large budget movie ($45-50 million dollars at last report) made, a 50+ year old man, Roberto himself, had to be the lead? That's part of it but the other logical inconsistencies of the movie are glaring as well. From Pinocchio's growing nose, that only grew a couple of times when he lied (which was all the time), to the lack of scale and timeframe, at no point did it look like anyone was trying to make a decent live action version of this classic. The darker nature of this one also makes it less acceptable for kids, the supposed target audience, since seeing lead characters die, ill fortune fall upon those undeserving of such, and all the other problems this one had is not considered a good idea for selling it-at least in the American market.
The acting was bad, as was the adapted script but what about the costumes and soundtrack? Well, those were two solid aspects of the movie that I could recommend, which sure isn't much to check out a movie on. I also watched both versions of the movie since they were both included in the 2 dvd set and found the shorter Americanized version to be just as bad as the original Italian release. The dubbing by lots of well known actors wasn't always terrible but perhaps someone working with the dub might've suggested farming the project out to one of the better anime companies, AnimEigo or ADV come to mind, since the people in charge of this one looked like they spent all of a couple of days rushing this one through the process.
The timeless themes of Pinocchio tell us to behave, stay in school, and treat people well, not to mention tell the truth, and all will be well with the world but after watching this release, I wondered why this was so since Benigni's character is the least likeable boy I've ever encountered in a movie. To say he was a brat would be an insult to brats everywhere. The moral of this story was simplified to "don't get caught". Swell thing to teach people in these harsh times.
Both versions of the movie were bad enough that I recommend them as Skip It material unless you want to see how a great actor (Life Is Beautiful was indeed a great movie) can be so off track in the wrong movie. It wasn't just a bad movie on one level but on pretty much all levels which is a sad way to look at such a classic story, handled improperly.
Picture: The picture was presented in 2.35:1 ratio anamorphic widescreen color and looked pretty good. There were issues with edge enhancement and grain as well as some color saturation problems but most of the time, they weren't the focal point of the problem. I did notice some compression artifacts as well with light shimmering going on during certain sections of the movie.
Sound: The sound was presented in a choice of either a 5.1 Italian track with optional English subtitles, a dubbed English track, or a dubbed French track. The sound on the original Italian track was best with some actual separation between the channels. Pretty solid score too.
Extras: The extras in this 2 disc set include the two versions of the movie-the original Italian version as well as the slightly shorter American version, a featurette on the FAO Schwartz dept store Pinocchio window dressing (the store is well known for it's colorful New York store windows during the holiday season), and a short on the English dub of the movie where some of the voice actors are shown having a great time raking in the dough.
Final Thoughts: I watched this twice and let a couple of kids watch it to see if maybe they got something out of it that I didn't. They were smart enough to walk out of the room, and turn down a bribe to watch the rest, after the movie was halfway through. Pass this one up unless you're very desperate for something to watch on TV. It just goes to show you that a good actor, placed in a bad position, can't always save a movie that doesn't fit with them.