- The Washington Times - Friday, December 27, 2002

Did you hear something? The sound, perhaps, of a hastily produced adaptation of an Italian fairy tale bombing faster than a precision-guided bomb over Baghdad?
That would be Roberto Benigni's "Pinocchio," a live-action version of Carlo Collodi's fantasy novel that opened, discreetly, on Christmas Day.
It's bad. Tear-your-hair-out, gouge-your-eyes-out bad.
If your children beg you to take them to this movie, don't give in. I sat through every painful minute of "Pinocchio" all 108 of them and heard not a peep of laughter from the children assembled there.
Tell them, if you must, that parents aren't allowed to take their children to "Pinocchio": It would be considered child abuse; family services would come after you and lock you up.
Poor, deluded Pinocchio: the puppet of pine who pines to be a real live boy. Mr. Benigni had to go and visit another disaster on the already disaster-prone creature.
As the famous tale goes, every time the incorrigible puppet has a chance to become a boy courtesy of the deity-like Blue Fairy he messes up, more than once winding up in jail.
Of course, there's also the nose: the pointy proboscis that grows whenever Pinocchio fibs. In this "Pinocchio," it's one of many cheap and shoddy effects.
Then there's the dubbing, or what passes for it. Originally shot with actors speaking in Italian which must have been bad enough the special American version of "Pinocchio" is further degraded by English voiceovers.
The likes of Glenn Close (speaking for the Blue Fairy), John Cleese (the Cricket) and Regis Philbin (the Ringmaster) lent their voices (what were they thinking?) to the otherworldy universe of "Pinocchio," and the result is not pretty.
They might as well have been reading Dickens, the lip-syncing is so bad. The whole movie seems like a cross between "The Wizard of Oz" and a 1970s kung-fu movie.
Breckin Meyer (as the voice of the wooden boy wonder himself) is so annoyingly melodramatic so gratingly emotive that Pinocchio almost becomes an enemy of sanity.
Actually, Mr. Benigni, playing the live Pinocchio, very nearly could drive one crazy. The irrepressible paisan is over-the-top campy. He skips. He simpers. He whines. He makes Robin Williams look like a picture of serenity.
Let me be blunt: After seeing this movie, I don't like Pinocchio. In fact, I can't stand him. The little sap (pun intended) belongs in jail. I would like to take that long nose of his and choke him with it.
Somehow, I doubt that's the effect Collodi intended. Please spare yourself spare your children a similar ordeal.
Gentle reader, "no stars" is too high a rating for "Pinocchio." There is no keyboard character that could adequately express the awfulness of this movie. It deserves less than no stars: It deserves a brown dwarf, a black hole.

No stars
TITLE: "Pinocchio"
RATING: G (Nothing objectionable, save for a mildly scary great white shark)
CREDITS: Directed by Roberto Benigni. Produced by Nicoletta Braschi. Co-written by Vincenzo Cerami and Mr. Benigni (based on "The Adventures of Pinocchio" by Carlo Collodi)
RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

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