Pinocchio (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

and F. Scott Fitzgerald

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.

"Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had all the advantages that you've had."

Despite his borrowed wisdom from The Great Gatsby, my father was not a man of great insight. Of course, he wouldn't have been so inappropriately generous to his fellow man if he had known about Roberto Benigni.

Most of you are familiar with the story of Pinocchio, but the Disneyfied version of the story has completely superseded all other versions in American culture. Insofar as you think of Pinocchio at all, you think of a cartoon Jiminy Cricket. Luckily for America, that comic genius Robert Benigni has now given us a live actor version which restores the original grit to the story. For example, did you know that Gepetto dreamed of creating a puppet who would come to life as a homely middle aged man?

Now you do.

You see, Benigni not only wrote and directed the film, but he also decided to star in it, thus fulfilling his lifelong dream of pushing Disney aside and giving the world Pinocchio as he was originally conceived: a bald, rubber-faced Italian man wearing a dunce cap and jammies made from one of Elvis's old jumpsuits.

If you are at all in tune with modern slang, you've heard the term "asshat", but you might not be sure exactly what it means. Your days of uncertainly are over. Benigni fleshes out and gives literal meaning to the word "asshat".

You'll notice that Mr Benigni's portrait of a young man has enough 5 o'clock shadow to alarm Richard Nixon. Given Pinocchio's three-day beard and the pastel colors, I'm thinking this movie wasn't meant to be a stand-alone entertainment, but was actually just a really frightening drug-induced dream sequence from a forgotten episode of Miami Vice.

Benigni's triple threat contribution earned him three well-deserved Razzie nominations for Worst Screenplay, Worst Director, and Worst Actor. He had too much competition in the Worst Picture categories (one word: Madonna), but he snuck in as a surprise winner in the acting category, defeating all the usual suspects like Adam Sandler and Steven Seagal, and fending off a strong challenge from his countryman Adriano Giannini, whose star shone so brightly in Swept Away.

Just because he won a Razzie, Benigni is not content to rest on his laurels. As he sits there brooding on the unknown world which looms before him, he knows he can be even sillier in the future. In the upcoming years, he resolves never to walk again, but only to skip happily and cluelessly, like a demented child. He resolves to step on twice as many rakes, and get pummeled by twice as many custard pies. He is considering having all the bones in his face and legs removed, so that he can walk sillier and make sillier faces. Like other true cultural pioneers, from Chuck Yeager to Larry Clark, he vows to keep testing the outside of his chosen envelope.

The ultimate silliness.

That is his dream, and it must have seemed so close in Pinocchio that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond Hollywood and Rome, where he could prance and pratfall through the wide open fields of slapstick which roll on under the infinite night, dotted with banana peels.

Like Gatsby, he believes in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. For Benigni it is the future of goofiness. It eluded him then, but that's no matter - tomorrow Benigni will walk sillier, fall harder ... and one fine morning ....

(I didn't suddenly learn how to write. Whatever eloquence those paragraphs may possess, it is the eloquence of F. Scott Fitzgerald, who knew a thing or two about stringin' words together.)

DVD info from Amazon

The DVD includes two disks. One is the dubbed version, the other is in Italian with English subtitles. I watched only the dubbed version, but it was an excellent, clear widescreen anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer, making me feel that clarity is overrated.


none, thank God

The Critics Vote

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 0% positive. You think Dimaggio's hit streak is unbreakable? Let's see someone break this record.

  • 8/100. The is the 9th worst score in the Metacritic database.

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. Released by Miramax group on 1200 screens during the lucrative Christmas vacation period, it grossed less than four million.


Special Scoopy awards for excellence in criticism go to:

Order of merit in accuracy: V.A Musetto, N.Y. Post, " ... cements Benigni's ranking as the most annoying actor on or off the screen. "Pinocchio" is loud, crass and full of slapstick humor that the Three Stooges would be ashamed of. And it is almost completely lacking in charm and nuance.  Benigni's antics made me feel as if I were being endlessly bonked on the head by a large polo mallet. Besides, the middle-aged Benigni - who directed and has the lead role - looks positively ridiculous running around in a clown's outfit, pretending to be a child."

Order of merit in humor:  Mark Savlov, The Austin Chronicle. "... it's like The Care Bears Movie minus that film's crackling drama and razored pathos. By film's end I was fantasizing that Peter Stormare would drop by with his Fargo wood-chipper in tow, but it was not to be. Appalling."

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is an E. It looks excellent in a demented, surrealistic Fellini-on-acid way. In every other aspect, the film is shameful and embarrassing.

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