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Adventures of Pinocchio, The (1996)

Yeah, I'm reviewing the one starring JTT... Now stop snickering before I punch you.
Yeah, I'm reviewing the one starring JTT... Now stop snickering before I punch you.

Genre: Family Adventure Fantasy (USA, UK, France, Germany, Czech Republic)

Starring: Jonathan Taylor Thomas ("Home Improvement"The Lion King), Martin Landau (North by Northwest"Mission: Impossible")

Directed By: Steve Barron (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles • Coneheads)

Overview: In this Disney classic, a woodcarver fashions a marionette and wishes upon a star that it could be made into a real boy from a magical piece of wood. When the Blue Fairy appears to grant his wish, it is the magical wooden boy, Pinocchio, who must prove himself worthy of being a real life boy.

When Ben Saddington, Australian Filmsquish™ fan extraordinaire, read my review of Pinocchio, he felt sorry for me. So sorry in fact, that he promptly shipped me what was, in his opinion, a better version of the story. The version he sent me, he promised, was closer to the original 1880s tale. When I received it, however, there was a snag and it was one hell of a major one: it starred Tiger Beat heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas. The picture below was the first thing I saw when I opened the package - that brutal image served as the cover of the videocassette. I squirmed. I doubted. I bolstered my courage with a bottle of Chardonnay and the Armenian member of our Hecklefest group. Avast! We would get through this though Hell or high water!

It's almost surreal seeing Udo Kier, Lars von Trier movie mainstay, as the villain. Stranger still is the presence of Rob Schneider, Adam Sandler movie mainstay, playing the corrupting fox and Bebe Neuwirth, whom you may know better as "Frasier" 's wife, in the role of his partner, the sly cat. Strangest of all is how well these actors adopt their roles. Knowing that Jonathan Taylor Thomas, or good ol' JTT as he's known to the young'uns, would be doing mostly voicing for his wooden character was certainly a boon. And although almost every Italian / Tuscan / whatever in this Period piece spoke with a British accent, it didn't distract me from quickly becoming immersed. The cautionary vignettes that Pinocchio suffers were not as heavy-handed and rife with over-the-top imagery as the 40s version we're accustomed to. We are graced with different and, I dare say, more enjoyable stories than in the over-rated Disney Pinocchio, and what surprised me most of all was how well the continuity linked our short-stories together into a tapestry that worked better as a whole than Walt's lukewarm production. Another thing I was quite pleased with was how the setting was genuinely fantastical, as opposed to being merely 'the world they lived in'. Let me give you an example: certain characters were genuinely shocked at the existence of an animated marionette, others quickly accustomed themselves, but always with some astonisment. The mysticism and magic in this world is a rare thing, but not unfathomable, and director Steve Barron did a glorious job of painting this universe of amazement for me. In the end I lauded how entertaining and well-made The Adventures of Pinocchio was, especially when compared to the precedent set by the 'original' film.

Eee this image is NOT selling my case...
Eeesh, this image is NOT selling my case...

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 82% (Honest!)

Actually, there were 2 major snags, not just one. The second was that the VHS tape didn't actually work when we popped it in. Did you know that region coding exists with VHS tapes?! Well I had to figure it out the hard way. It's ok, we got a copy, but Australian VHS tapes are certainly not my PAL!

For those of you who were following the 1001 Must See Movies Club link, you probably wanted to see this 1940 Disney review that was assigned, right? Well, you just got the best of both worlds, now didn't you?

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