How to Watch 'Pinocchio' Online: Stream the Film for Free on HBO Max. HBO Max is the only place to watch Pinocchio online

Old woodcarver Geppetto's puppet creation, Pinocchio, magically comes to life with dreams of becoming a real boy. Easily led astray, Pinocchio tumbles from one misadventure to another as he is tricked, kidnapped and chased by bandits.

Director: Matteo Garrone

Writers: Carlo Collodi (novel), Matteo Garrone (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

Stars: Federico Ielapi, Roberto Benigni, Rocco Papaleo 

Matteo Garrone. Starring: Federico Ielapi, Roberto Benigni, Marine Vacth, Rocco Papaleo and Massimo Ceccherini. PG cert, 124 mins.

Matteo Garrone’s Pinocchio is rated PG, which implies that children won’t be permanently scarred by its nightmarish visions. But it’s PG in the way that Nicolas Roeg’s The Witches was PG – a film deemed suitable for children because it’s based on a children’s novel and is about magic and childhood – but not because it’s at all cute or whimsical.

This is a difficult and unpleasant watch, an adaptation that fully exploits the grotesque and the baroque in Carlo Collodi’s source material. It’s also often breathtaking; Garrone carries over the imagination and visual panache of his 2015 fantasy film Tale of Tales and transports it into a kind of dark fairytale.

As Geppetto, a lonely carpenter who builds a son out of wood, Life is Beautiful’s Roberto Benigni gives a characteristically warm and melancholic performance. The remarkable Federico Ielapi, aged just 10, is our hero, who is propelled into increasingly surreal adventures after he ventures far away from home.

Garrone is resolutely faithful to Collodi’s book, in the process exposing how many of us grew up with far more sanitised versions of the Pinocchio story via Disney animation. In truth, Collodi’s work is a brutal piece of children’s fiction, one that sweeps readers up in magic but is also uncomfortably realistic about human cruelty and poverty, and how often the naive are exploited and taken advantage of. This is, after all, a story in which a tiny puppet-child is hanged from a tree by tricksters he believes to be looking out for his best interests – a scene Garrone uncompromisingly dramatises here. 

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