Release Date: December 25, 2002

This is a terrible mistake!  I used up all my English!

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Oscar®-winner Roberto Benigni (everyone just sit back and contemplate those first four words for a second) is taking a shot at creating a live-action version of the oft-filmed children's fairy tale, Pinocchio. OK, now let's just put it out there right now that there are waaaaay too many jokes to be made about an actor playing (a) a piece of wood, (b) who wishes he could be a real human and (c) who turns into a jackass after partying with a bunch of wild boys. So many, in fact, that we're going to have mercy and take a pass on this one. Because contrary to the daily affirmations that Winona writes in her diary, there *is* such a thing as too easy. (What? The Mr. Deeds marketing team can score off Winona's rep, but we can't?)

Director/producer/writer Benigni has stated that this version will be more like the original, dark fable by Carlo Collodi, rather than the Disney-esque version of the story. Never one to be constrained by the inconvenient dictates of reality, the 49-year-old Benigni's first bold move out of the box was to cast himself as the boy puppet (maybe he was too intimidated to try to follow Drew Carey's distinguished performance as Geppetto in the made-for-TV movie). Benigni has explained this casting with a wacky collection of poetic-sounding words that don't really go together or provide any kind of explanation for his decisions, but basically boil down to "When you've won as many awards as I have, you can cast whoever you want in your puppet movie." Long-suffering wife Nicoletta Braschi will play the Blue Fairy who grants the wooden boy's fondest wish (again, too many jokes here), while 72-year-old Italian actor Carlo Giuffre will be standing in for the fat guy from Cleveland in the surrogate father role. The movie was filmed primarily in Italy and Malta, reportedly on an Italian record-breaking budget of $45 million.

On paper, Pinocchio looks like a bit of a mixed bag, box office-wise. On the one hand, soon after the 1999 Academy Awards® show, Benigni quickly moved into the Macauley Culkin Club of Irrepressible Scamps We Once Found Charming But Now Find to be Completely Intolerable. Whether he has stayed away long enough for the American public to look on him with affection, in a William Shatner "Yeah, we used to mock you, but we now find you funny in a nostalgic, ironic kinda way" manner remains to be seen. Further on the negative side, this movie is filmed in Italian, with English subtitles, which can be off-putting for US audiences. However, subtitles didn't hurt the considerably more dubious-sounding Holocaust comedy Life is Beautiful, which earned over $57 million in 1999 and garnered seven Academy Award® nominations. Further helping to mitigate the language issue, marketing powerhouse Miramax has set the opening date for December 25th and according to Variety, has enlisted McDonald's for a big promotional tie-in. Ultimately, the Pinocchio concept obviously already has strong brand awareness and is likely to be attractive to the portion of the large holiday moviegoing public looking for family-oriented entertainment. (Calvin Trager/BOP)

Vital statistics for Pinocchio
Main Cast Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Carlo Giuffre, Mino Bellei, Kim Rossi Stuart, Alessandro Bergonzoni, Corrado Pani, Vincenzo Cerami
Supporting Cast Bruno Arena, Giuseppe Barra, Riccardo Bizzarri, Lando Buzzanca, Max Cavallari, Luis Molteni
Director Roberto Benigni
Screenwriter Roberto Benigni, Vincenzo Cerami
Distributor Miramax
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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