Film Review – Coco


DIRECTED BY: Lee Unkrich

STARRING: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Edward James Olmos, Alfonso Arau, Selene Luna, Dyana Ortellí, Herbert Sigüenza, Jaime Camil, Sofía Espinosa and Luis Valdez

 

SYNOPSIS

Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer.

Set in Santa Cecilia, Mexico, we’re given a brief family history about the Rivera’s. Imelda Rivera was the wife of a musician, who left her and their daughter, Coco, to pursue a career in music. Abandoning his family for music, Imelda decides to ban music in the family and creates a shoemaking family business. In the present day we follow the story of Imelda’s great-great-grandson Miguel, who lives with the elderly Coco and their family. Miguel dreams of becoming a musician like his hero Ernesto de la Cruz, a popular actor and singer from Imelda’s generation. Desperate to break the family’s music-ban and prove his talent, Miguel finds himself stuck in the Land of the Dead and must seek the help of a charming trickster skeleton named Hector to not only get back to the land of the living, but unlock the real truth behind his family history.

Coco is the latest film from the Pixar umbrella with Toy Story 3 direct Lee Unkrich helming this animated feature which has us following a young boy in Mexico named Miguel Rivera. Miguel loves his family but there’s one thing he loves just as much…playing music. The problem for Miguel is that there’s a family ban on music that has been passed down for generations because his great-great-grandmother’s husband, a musician, left her and her daughter Coco to pursue a career in music. One day Miguel believes that his great-great-grandfather could be that of his idol Ernesto de la Cruz, who used to be a popular singer and actor. Due to a chain of particular events, Miguel manages to find himself stuck in the Land of the Dead and with the aid of trickster Hector, he must make his way back to the Land of the Living.

 

Coco is a beautiful film that we’ve come to expect from Pixar. The film takes its time in the first fifteen-twenty minutes to establish the world, giving us heavy exposition about the Rivera family before the pace of the story picks up as we enter the Land of the Dead. It’s gorgeously colourful, bursting with fluorescent colours and lights and literally if this place exists in the afterlife, I want to go there please! One day of the year at the Land of the Dead, when the Living celebrate the Day of the Dead, they’re able to cross over into the world of the living if someone pays tribute to them by placing their photograph onto a ofrenda. However, once all memory of them fades in the Land of the Living, their existence fades away also in the Land of the Dead. As vibrant, colourful and how much of a checklist Coco may contain (checklist such as feature an animal sidekick), Coco focuses on the dilemma of being torn in taking a path that your family wants you to take or taking the path of doing something that you love, even though it may tear you apart from your family. It questions the meaning of legacy and whether personal ambitions can coexist with still being committed to your family and there’s other subjects it tackles such as dementia, intertwining with being forgotten by your loved ones once you pass the ‘Land of the Living’ and I thought that undertone to be pretty effective in the film, particularly in one scene involving Hector and his friend Chicharrón. Speaking of Hector, the character falls into the trope of whacky sidekick, arrives into the beginning of Miguel’s adventure at the Land of the Dead and seems to be your generic sidekick that we’ve come to expect. The film takes some twists and turns and when it comes to Hector’s arc, it becomes sad when you remember how we see him at the start of the film. Hector is voiced really well by Gael García Bernal, as is Miguel by Anthony Gonzalez. Another highlight voice performance is Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz, being as charming as ever. The music was another highlight of Coco, not just that of that song ‘Remember Me’ which is repeated quite a number of times and I’m sure it’ll be in contention at the Oscars for Best Original Song, the actual score from Michael Gracchino.

 

There’s no real major complaints I have with Coco other than minor nitpicks. Outside of Remember Me, the songs weren’t as memorable for me but that’s probably because Remember Me is played so much in comparison. There’s some that will feel that the exposition in the first fifteen to twenty minutes may be too much to take it, but I felt it was necessary to explain the family history from Miguel’s point-of-view, as well as explain the rules within the Land of the Dead. The film’s playbook is pretty much the same as what we’ve seen before from Pixar but it’s an effective formula that simply works.

 

VERDICT

Coco is a beautiful animated film, filled with a rich, vibrant world set in the Land of the Dead, bursting with fun energy and a solid score from Michael Gracchino to compliment it. The film moves at a solid pace and there’s a moment in the final act I’m sure will make a few people shed a tear or two. The voice casting is solid throughout and I’m sure that the song Remember Me will be an Oscar winner at the Academy Awards this year.  8/10

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