Disney/Pixar Coco Review
Coco, now playing in theaters, puts a fresh fresh on the typical Disney/Pixar formula and just happens to be the studio’s 19th film.
The story takes place in Mexico and it’s strong sense of place isn’t the only appeal, though. Coco beautifully celebrates the Mexican culture and traditions, and directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina gives the film a darkly funny, imaginative and deeply poignant film.
The film starts with an explanation about the meaning of Dia de los Muertos, the annual celebration to honor the dead, and quickly finds it’s groove with the story of Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez), a spirited boy with a passion for music. He even makes a guitar from nails and pieces of wood. Unfortunately, music is strictly forbidden in his home. The reason behind that is that his great-great-grandfather abandoned his wife, Imelda, and daughter, Coco, to become a famous musician so all tunes have been banned. Years later, generations of the Riveras still take the ban seriously, even with an aged Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia) appears at death’s door.
The premise does it’s job at laying the groundwork for the central conflict when, on Dia de los Muertos, Miguel’s family uncovers his secret passion for music. This leads to a very heated argument, causing him to run away and ends up accidentally crossing over to the realm of the dead.
This is where Pixar does it’s best work , creating a beautiful new worlds. In this film, the land of the dead is filled with remarkably non-creepy skeletons, where they hang out with brightly colorful spirit animals and has a strict system that dictates which deceased members of society get to travel to the land of the living once a year and see their descendants. ( Their law only allows former humans whose photos appear on a family altar to go.)
From here, Miguel has to find a way back to the living before sunrise or he will be among the dead forever. In the land of the dead, we get to meet some interesting characters like Miguel’s feisty great-great-grandmother Imelda (Alanna Ubach), who is still feels abandoned after all these years, and a lonely wanderer named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) who quickly becomes Miguel’s closest ally in this new world. We get to meet Miguel’s all-time favorite musician, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), who died in a freak accident in the 1940s.
Its moments like that, and so many other that deal with the topic of death in a lighthearted way, have a bit of dark comedy to it in a way that is fresh for Pixar.
Mostly though, the film focuses on the main thing that has been constant with the studio: the importance of family. And it wouldn’t be a Disney movie without an adorable sidekick, a kooky stray dog named Dante, and stunning visuals. The animation in Coco is so amazingly detailed that is looks realistic, especially the wrinkled face of the elderly title character.
Lately, Pixar has been doing that sequel mania that has plagued Hollywood (I mean don’t get me wrong, I love sequels) so it’s nice that Coco has brought in some much-needed fresh air. Coco is an amazing original story that honors a culture in an absolutely perfect way.