A troublemaking puppet is granted life so he can comfort a grieving woodcarver.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring David Bradley, Gregory Mann, and Ewan McGregor
Review by Jon Kissel
In another of those coincidences of studio groupthink, three adaptations of the Pinocchio story landed on streaming services in 2022. A Pauly Shore-starring Russian knockoff languishes on Amazon Prime, Robert Zemeckis continues his CGI beclowning with a critically panned version on Disney+, and Netflix flexes its quality control muscles with Guillermo del Toro’s version. By far the best received, Del Toro’s stop-motion film is a serious contender for a Best Animated Film Oscar, especially in a year when Disney is dragging its feet. However, Del Toro’s pet interests and style don’t work with a script that’s stuck between irreverence and historical trauma. Combined with sloppy plot mechanics and a refusal to take advantage of the storytelling elements dropped in the viewer’s lap, Pinocchio lifelessly flails around for unearned emotional power. This might be the best version of this story that came out in 2022, but when Zemeckis and his non-union Russian equivalent are the competition, that’s not much of a compliment.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Iconic gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s most well-known work is a series of dispatches from Las Vegas, published piecemeal in Rolling Stone before being assembled in the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. As he and his companion Dr. Gonzo trip acid and observe the goings on at a dirt bike race and a law enforcement convention, Thompson watches what will come after the deflated and defeated 60’s and suffocates whatever remained of his optimism in a hedonistic drug binge. The decades-later film adaptation is taken on by Terry Gilliam, a director with a taste for satire wrapped in the comedic genre-bending of Monty Python or the sci-fi delirium of Brazil, and stars two actors unafraid of heightened eccentricity in Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas loads itself up with assets and zooms off onto the desert highway, giving this viewer his sought-after historical trending and root causes within a package of druggy psychedelia and splayed-leg acting.
Stand By Me
Stephen King’s particular brand of nostalgia gets its most straightforward representation in Stand By Me, one of the best film adaptations of his extensive catalog. King comes at the past with a clearer eye than most, refusing to dress up the ugly parts while still idealizing the freedom-filled summers that present-day Americans lament as a long-dead part of childhood while leashing their own children indoors. Stand By Me, adapted by Rob Reiner from King’s novella The Body, is perhaps the most well-known cinematic depiction of this kind of adult-free upbringing, given critical longevity thanks to its performances and a tone that implicates every onscreen adult as a betrayer or abuser of children. King will make this explicit with his epic novel It, published the same year of Stand By Me’s release, but the non-supernatural cruelty of Stand By Me is just as memorable. The world is mean enough to kids who don’t deserve it, with or without killer clowns.
Hunt For the Wilderpeople
The family-friendly adventure gets a modern update with Taika Waititi’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Waititi’s fourth film and easily his best gives him a larger budget, but large within the context of New Zealand independent cinema. For a mere $7.5 million, Waititi creates a kinder Goonies and a funnier Stand By Me, the equivalent of an 80's Amblin film in a setting outside of American suburbia. By this point in his career, Waititi has honed his golden Simpsons ratio of 90% comedy and 10% pathos and is about to cash a big check from Marvel, all while demonstrating a creative strength behind the camera that makes his film look more expensive than it is. His transition away from New Zealand micro-budgets and into major commercial and critical cinema has yielded mixed results. The fulcrum of Hunt For the Wilderpeople is the height of one phase of his filmmaking career that later phases are measured against, and come up short.
Richard Linklater is the foremost filmmaker when it comes to American male childhood. He nailed high school in Dazed and Confused, college in Everybody Wants Some, and boyhood in… Boyhood. Linklater takes another crack at being young and Texan in Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood. If that seems like a retread after Boyhood, it does to Linklater, too, because he mixes fantasy and reality here in way that he couldn’t in Boyhood. Apollo 10 ½’s nostalgic journey into unsupervised exurban bliss gets its greatest oomph from the tiny details of Galveston beach instead of its moon-walking adventure, likely because Linklater’s been stung by a jellyfish but never left footprints on the lunar surface.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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