(G) ZERO stars

(G) ZERO stars
I thought it was a lock. With December nearly over, it seemed obvious that the wretched martial arts comedy Kung Pow: Enter the Fist was a lock for the title of Worst Movie of 2002. But then, on Christmas Day, Roberto Benigni comes crawling over the tops of seats all the way from Italy with Pinocchio, possibly the most dreadful family film I have ever witnessed. Benigni, you may recall, is the Italian "national treasure" who gained prominence on these shores with the moving holocaust story Life Is Beautiful. For a brief, horrible period, he became the American Flavor of the Day, hamming it up in a fashion that made Robin Williams look like an introvert. Thankfully, following a tremendously embarrassing appearance at the Oscars, he went away. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the theater, he"s baaaack, this time in a live action fairy tale dubbed into English with all the finesse of the early Godzilla movies. Breckin Meyer, who had a sitcom after Friends for a few weeks (but then, who hasn"t?), provides the voice for Benigni, with Glenn Close, John Cleese, Eric Idle, David Suchet, Cheech Marin, Eddie Griffin, Topher Grace, Erik Bergmann, Queen Latifah and Regis Philbin also chattering away. They don"t help. Pinocchio fails on virtually every level, starting with a log that rolls and crashes through a village in a lame slapstick scene (apparently aware that it will soon be carved into the character played by Benigni, the log overacts). Then we meet Pinocchio, the puppet who dreams of being a real boy, in the form of Benigni, a 40-something man with a receding hairline, dressed in a clown suit with nothing physically indicating he is supposed to be a puppet. What great casting. Shortly after, Geppetto (Carlo GiuffrÈ, voice by Suchet) pops up, all decked out in a bad rug, followed by the Blue Fairy (Nicoletta Braschi, Mrs. Benigni, voice by Close), who looks like a cross between the Mona Lisa and Courtney Love. The artless film careens from scene to scene with Pinocchio misbehaving, then feeling remorse, frequently wailing, "I want to be dead!" Remembering how audience participation helped Tinker Bell to get her wish in Peter Pan, I clapped my hands enthusiastically, but alas, he lived. Parents will be delighted to know that the film includes a brief scene of Pinocchio hanging by the neck, still, from a tree limb. Aaaah, family films. After what seems like an eternity, the puppet shapes up and becomes a human being. We know this only because Pinocchio changes clothes and announces the transformation. Actually, they announce everything in this movie. For example, when Pinocchio grows donkey ears and a tail, he states, "Oh, I"ve grown donkey ears and a tail!" Summing up, imagine the worst school play you"ve ever seen, lasting for 108 torturous minutes, starring the last guy in the world you would invite to a party, and you"ve got Pinocchio, the Worst Movie of 2002.

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