Even characters whose appearances are relatively brief - like puppet master Stromboli and bad-boy Lampwick - make a big impression.Speaking of those last two, it's also to Pinocchio's credit that, for all its warmth and good-natured charm, the movie (like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) does not shy away from genuine darkness. In fact, for my money, Lampwick's big scene on Pleasure Island is among the most frightening scenes to appear in mainstream, family entertainment.
Let's look at it: we start with Pinocchio and Lampwick enjoying cigars, what appears to be beer, and pool in a Pleasure Island billiards joint. Pinocchio is enamored with Lampwick's swagger, but to Jiminy (and the audience), he's an obnoxious blowhard. We don't like Lampy very much, yet what comes next is still deeply disturbing. Slowly, piece by piece, he begins to transform into a donkey. He's literally becoming the jackass we see him to be. But the transformation doesn't only reflect his true nature - it also reveals more of it. When he realizes what's happening, the braggadocio and affectations of adulthood all instantly disappear, and Lampwick is reduced to a frightened child desperately crying for his mother. As he loses his hands (oh that shot of his shaking hands becoming hooves!) and finally loses even his voice, he throws himself into a mindless, terrified tantrum, smashing up the inside of the pool hall with his new mule legs. This brash young kid who had been so annoying moments before is suddenly an object of horrified pity - that's powerful storytelling.
Equally powerful (or nearly anyway), but with the opposite emotion, is the reunion of Pinocchio and Gepetto. Down at the bottom of the ocean, swallowed by the terrifying Monstro, the pair couldn't be in more dire straits, yet they're elated upon seeing each other once again. Gepetto's instant and complete forgiveness of Pinocchio is a beautiful expression of fatherly love, and proves the impetus for the pair's salvation, and Pinocchio's ultimate transformation into a real boy.
I'm sure if I looked really hard for faults, I could come up with something. I'm sure I could say Pinocchio isn't a nearly perfect movie, but I think by now you would know that I was lying, whether you could see my nose or not.
I'm giving Pinocchio a perfect score of 10 out of 10 mice.
There's lots more content related to this movie coming during the rest of this month - a comparison between the movie and the Carlo Collodi novel, a look at how the story's connection to the Biblical tale of Jonah, a character spotlight on a member of the supporting cast who went on to have a career outside of the movie (hint: no, I don't mean Jiminy), and more!