Roberto Benigni became an international star after he won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his work in Life is Beautiful, a film Benigni also directed and co-wrote. But Benigni’s star plummeted a bit in the years to come, worsened by his directorial follow-up, 2002’s Pinocchio. The live-action take on the classic tale was critically panned, most notably for the fact that the middle-aged Benigni cast himself as the puppet boy. You might think that experience would keep Benigni away from all-things Pinocchio-related, but no. He’s starring in yet another take on the tale – this time as Geppetto, the woodcarver who crafts the puppet.
I don’t know how it happened, but there are multiple Pinocchio adaptations headed our way. Guillermo del Toro is co-directing a stop-motion movie destined for Netflix, and Disney wants to make a new live-action version with Robert Zemeckis directing Tom Hanks. And then there’s Matteo Garrone‘s new Pinocchio movie, which is getting an English-language release this Christmas from Roadside Attractions.
Garrone’s Pinocchio was released in Italy in 2019 and the English version found its way to the United Kingdom and Ireland over the summer. Now, America will get a chance to see it on December 25. And normally, that would be the end of the story. Hell, we might not even give this more than a cursory glance. But what makes this Pinocchio particularly interesting is that it’s the second time an adaptation of the classic Carlo Collodi story will feature Robert Benigni.
Benigni made a big splash in the late 1990s when Life is Beautiful, a film he co-wrote, directed, and starred in, became an international box office hit and a major awards season player. It scored Benigni a Best Actor Oscar, making him the first recipient of the award for a non-English male performance. Life is Beautiful also took home the Oscar for Best International Feature Film. After that, all eyes were on Benigni to see what he would do next. The answer was Pinocchio, a 2002 Italian film that Begnini once again co-wrote, directed, and starred in.
The reaction to Pinocchio was the polar opposite of Life is Beautiful, with the film being trounced by critics who understandably couldn’t get past the fact that Begnini, who was 50 at the time, cast himself as the titular puppet boy. Things only got worse when an English-dubbed version was released featuring Breckin Meyer’s voice coming out of Benigni’s mouth. If you’d like to see/hear how weird and disturbing that is, please watch the clip below…if you dare.
Benigni plays the more age-appropriate Gepetto in this new adaptation, and so far, the reaction has been much more positive. Because while the 2002 Pinocchio forever sits at 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, the new film currently boasts an 88% rating. Perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned here – we should all be more like Roberto Benigni, and never give up on our dreams of starring in multiple Pinocchio adaptations until we get it right.
“We love the emotional and fantastical storytelling of this new Pinocchio, and, with what’s shaping up to be a challenging holiday season for families, we think this English language version will be a welcoming escape for? any kids and parents with a nose for adventure and mischief,” said Roadside Attractions co-presidents Howard Cohen and Eric d’Arbeloff. In addition to Benigni, Pinocchio also stars Federico Ielapi as the eponymous puppet. You can watch a trailer for the film below.
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