“Coco,” dir. Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector, and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
Before I get into my review for “Coco,” I must mention the horrible short, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure,” that plays before the film starts. The short is an unforgivable 21 minutes long and plays like a generic holiday special on ABC. It’s abundantly clear that Disney used the brand recognition of “Frozen” to try to get more people in the theater to see “Coco,” which might have been okay had the short been 5-10 minutes long. In my theater, there were several audience members, including children, that were quickly getting restless that the feature they paid for wasn’t starting. When “Coco” was released in Mexico late last month, there was such an outcry against this short that theaters were forced to remove it from screenings. One can only hope that they do the same here in the United States.
As for the film itself, “Coco” is an absolute knockout. Directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina have a clear appreciation for Mexican culture, providing a remarkable attention to detail to every aspect of the movie. The Land of the Dead is one of the most gorgeous locations in any Pixar feature, populated with a ton of lively characters. It’s become typical to expect stunning animation from Pixar and this is no exception.
Music plays a major part in this story and the original songs and musical score don’t disappoint. Michael Giacchino has already done some of the greatest scores for Pixar’s, winning the Oscar for his work on “Up,” and his score for “Coco” does a wonderful job at adding to the atmosphere of the picture. The team behind the soundtrack for “Frozen,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, came in to write the song, “Remember Me,” and it would be an absolute shock if it doesn’t win the Oscar for Best Original Song. Not only is it a wonderful piece that rivals any song from any Disney musical in recent years, but it plays so beautifully throughout and adds so much to the emotional value of the story.
There’s also a delightful amount of humor. If you have a deeper understanding of Mexican culture, then there’s plenty of subtle jokes throughout that are laugh out loud hilarious, particularly from Abuelita who’s voiced by Renée Victor. For a family film that deals with mature themes, it’s important for there to be great moments of levity while also making sure not to go overboard. Thankfully the screenwriters know how to strike the perfect balance of humor.
One of the things that Pixar is most well known for is the powerful emotion they pack into nearly every film they produce, whether it’s the opening of “Up,” the ending of “Toy Story 3,” or Bing-Bong in “Inside Out.” On that note, make sure you’re prepared with tissues before you walk into your screening of “Coco” because the heart of this movie is absolutely irresistible and the journey it takes you on is satisfying to no end. There is not one false note to be found.
Personally speaking, the films from Pixar mean the world to me. Out of the eighteen features they’ve released over the past 22 years, I have given ten of them a perfect score. When they are at the top of their game, their storytelling power is unparalleled. “Coco” is another winning example of their talent, easily the best animated film of 2017, and a piece of movie-making magic I’ll remember for years to come.
Have you gotten a chance to see “Coco” yet? Did you love it as much as I did? Are you going to avoid that terrible “Frozen” short at all cost? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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