Why They Hated <em>Pinocchio</em> by Frederica Mathewes-Green

Why They Hated Pinocchio

Frederica Mathewes-Green on Real versus Disney Children

I am the sole member of a very tiny club: As far as I can tell, I am the only reviewer in America who liked Roberto Benigni’s production of Pinocchio. I had sat all alone in a theater, thoroughly charmed by the production, the costumes, cinematography, and performances. And I wondered why I was alone. Later I checked a website that catalogues film reviews and did a double take. This site gives films a percentage score based on the number of positive reviews; the stylish film The Hours, for example, was enjoying an 88 percent rating. The site’s editors had not found a single review of Pinocchio they could classify as positive. Pinocchio scored a zero.

As I scanned these reviews, I saw a theme emerging. Some showed vehement hatred and mockery, others were merely cool, but all of them seemed somewhat puzzled. Reviewers hadn’t gotten the Pinocchio they were expecting. Instead of Disney’s chubby-cheeked charmer, Benigni’s Pinocchio is impulsive and exhausting, selfish and reckless. Reviewers couldn’t warm up to him, particularly because he was played by Benigni himself. They balked at the idea of a grown man portraying the puppet boy, in some cases expressing revulsion and disgust.

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Frederica Mathewes-Green is a columnist for Beliefnet.com and a contributor to the Christian Millennial History Project multi-volume series. Her books include At the Corner of East and Now (Putnam), The Illumined Heart (Paraclete Press), and The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer (Paraclete Press). She lives in Linthicum, Maryland, with her husband Fr. Gregory, pastor of Holy Cross Orthodox Church. They have three children and three grandchildren.

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