Pinocchio [1940]

Nearly abandoned by its distributor and savaged by critics, Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio is an object lesson in the hazards of success. Bolstered by his OscarĀ®-winning triumph Life Is Beautiful, the popular Italian actor-director-comedian was given carte blanche and chose Carlo Collodi's classic 1885 fairy tale as his next lavish project. This sumptuous production literally glows with traditional Italian craftsmanship, from delightful costumes and storybook sets by the late, great production designer Danilo Donati (whose last film this was) to the radiant palette of Dante Spinotti's masterful cinematography. This is one of the most beautiful of all Italian films, which only makes its shortcomings more conspicuous. At 50, Benigni is utterly wrong as the puppet who yearns to be a real boy, and his wife Nicoletta Braschi is similarly miscast as the Blue Fairy. Even worse, Breckin Meyer's English dubbing for Pinocchio is insufferably shrill, draining the appeal of Benigni's own performance. Pinocchio has many laudable qualities, but genuine enchantment is nowhere to be found. --Jeff Shannon

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