Spling reviews Guillermo’s del Toro’s Pinocchio, Falling for Christmas and Christmas with You as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about an animated fantasy adventure and two Christmas romantic comedies.
Starting off with a film now on Netflix…
GUILLERMO DEL TORO’S PINOCCHIO
A father’s wish magically brings a wooden boy to life.
Directors: Guillermo del Toro and Mark Gustafson
Features the voice talents of: Ewan McGregor, David Bradley and Gregory Mann
You may think you know the story of Pinocchio, made famous by a Disney classic in 1940, yet del Toro’s version provides a much-needed refresh on the fairytale based on the book “Pinocchio” written by Carlo Collodi. Taking the central concept, del Toro expands this into a full-fledged adventure against the backdrop of World War II. Set in Italy, at the time of Mussolini’s regime, even the small rural towns are under the Nazi influence. Integrating del Toro’s aesthetic, this beautifully animated stop-motion feature film takes you to another dimension with its detailed world-building, using modern technology to go well beyond the limits of traditional stop-motion. Much like the Brothers Grimm, this fairytale has an inherent darkness, which filters through its creative choices around character design, mood and bittersweet storytelling. Much like Pan’s Labyrinth had direct contrasts between fantasy and war, the same can be said for Pinocchio, which while family-friendly like Coraline tends toward nightmare. Allowing the animator’s nuanced decisions to inform the characters, they are voiced by an array of first-rate acting talents, including: Christoph Waltz, Cate Blanchett, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson and Tilda Swinton. Comparable with The House in texture, tone and quality, it creates something fresh and fierce in the process. Injecting a musical element, using a Jiminy Cricket style narrator, the cheerful songs are not out of place, further enhanced by Pinocchio’s playful sense of humour. A vivid animated adventure, Pinocchio makes for compelling viewing, in spite of a few lapses in judgement and a cool temperament.
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
Moving on to a movie now on Netflix…
FALLING FOR CHRISTMAS
After a newly engaged heiress is diagnosed with amnesia, she finds herself in a handsome ski lodge owner and his daughter’s care.
Director: Janeen Damian
Stars: Lindsay Lohan, Chord Overstreet and George Young
Imbuing a nostalgic, warm and familiar sentiment, it’s not unusual for this snow globe setting to recall stars from yesteryear. A welcome opportunity for these familiar faces to make a reappearance in a time for cherished memories, it’s not all that surprising to see Lindsay Lohan. Her star may be somewhat tarnished, but she still commands presence, playing a character whose initial icy disposition is perfectly poised for a change of heart. Set on the snowy slopes of a high-profile ski resort, it’s fun to see Cinderella in reverse as a spoiled brat downgrades her entourage lifestyle for a DIY experience. Taking its title literally, the physical comedy is prevalent, not completely out of place for a ski resort. Colourful, upbeat and constantly aiming for holiday fun, Falling for Christmas subverts twee tendencies with slapstick humour. Falling for Christmas is tonally imbalanced at times but its silly sense of humour and Christmas spirit smooth over most of these creases. Lohan’s performance is entertaining, dedicated to being in-the-moment and grows with the revelation of new romance and honest day’s work values. A live-action cartoon in many ways, the cheesy amnesia bit encourages you to roll with it for maximum enjoyment as magic realism enters the fray. It’s a welcome return for Lohan with enough fun, heartwarming and amusing moments to justify its tinsel-embroidered existence.
A flat 5 on the splingometer!
And finally another movie now on Netflix …
CHRISTMAS WITH YOU
A pop star with career burnout escapes to a small town where she finds inspiration and a shot at love.
Director: Gabriela Tagliavini
Stars: Aimee Garcia, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Deja Monique Cruz
Following in the tradition of Notting Hill, where a big star and an ordinary person cross paths unexpectedly, comes Christmas with You.
While not as star-studded as a Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant movie, Christmas with You holds up. More closely mimicking another Hugh Grant movie in Music and Lyrics, this charming and entertaining romcom is heartfelt and spirited. The story may be well-worn as with many Christmas movies, but it’s this warm sense of predictability that adds to one’s satisfaction. Composed of many sweet characters, the demands of a highflying celebrity lifestyle becomes the antagonistic force as a pop star gets a chance to re-examine her life and priorities. It’s lifted by cast chemistry, particularly between its delightful co-leads in Garcia and Prinze Jr, who are both wonderfully supported by an earnest ensemble. While centred around the unexpected romance between a princess and a pleb, Christmas with You also serves as a commentary on social media, ageism and our toast-of-the-day culture. A cute and sweet-natured tone, this Christmas romcom plays it safe, steering back to mainstream to satisfy its audience with a “will they, won’t they” romantic tug-of-war. A gentle, enjoyable and amusing entry into the genre, good chemistry and heartfelt sincerity resonate in this grounded fairytale.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
PINOCCHIO… mesmerising, imaginative animation visuals fuel this dark, dreamy and vivid refresh of a beloved fairy tale… An excellent 8!
FALLING FOR CHRISTMAS… while tonally inconsistent and overcooked at times, a game cast and sweet-natured fun sustain this amusing and heartwarming romcom… A flat 5!
CHRISTMAS WITH YOU… good co-lead chemistry, a charming cast and holiday spirit power this entertaining albeit predictable romcom… A satisfactory 6!
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And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!