“Coco”: A Millennial’s Movie Review
A Film to Remember
Coco is an animated film from Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios. Directed by Adrian Molina and Lee Unkrich, the film follows Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a young Mexican village boy who has dreams of sharing his music with the world. Unfortunately, music is strictly banned in his family of shoemakers. When a local talent show attracts his attention, Miguel is inspired to steal the guitar of the late local legend Ernesto de la Cruz. But in doing so, Miguel is accidentally transported to the world of the dead, where he must seek the blessings of his dead ancestors in order to return to the world of the living.
Pixar rarely takes a step in the wrong direction (the Cars franchise being an obvious exception). With unique premises and a usually mature message lying under a harmless family-friendly exterior, Pixar films such as Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3 have become ingrained in the minds of moviegoers both young and old. Incidentally, Coco’s director Lee Unkrich also directed the three aforementioned films, so if that doesn’t get us all excited about Coco, what will? But only a viewing can determine if Pixar has done it again, or whether Cars 3 will sadly be the best Pixar film of the year (I shudder at the thought).
Coco is not only the best animated movie this year, but one of the best films this year. It looks absolutely beautiful and is bursting at the seams with energy, not only from the background designs but from the screenplay. Coco does a great job of immersing the viewer in Mexican culture, with a fantastic voice cast, original songs and a great Michael Giacchino score. The story pulls incredibly hard on the heartstrings at the right moments, and makes for one of the most warming viewing experiences in Pixar history. They’ve really pulled off a gem of a movie here, and I believe it’s sure to perform exceptionally at the 2018 Oscars.
Music for the Soul
It’s difficult to pinpoint what Coco’s biggest strength is, and that itself is a testament to how well balanced it is. From the voice talents of Gael García Bernal and Benjamin Bratt to the vibrant colour palette of the art department, virtually every aspect of the film is solid. A big mention goes to Anthony Gonzalez for his confident lead performance as Miguel, despite his young age. More praise should be placed on the art and effects departments for the visual feasts in the film, which are great overall, but utterly breathtaking when we see the multi-coloured mountains of buildings in the land of the dead. The bright, intense colours simply pop off the screen. Composer and human workhorse Michael Giacchino utilised the appropriate talents to craft a spellbinding original score that channels the heart and spirit of Latino culture, and the film’s marquee song, ‘Remember Me’, is used in the most touching way possible, a sure-fire Oscar contender.
Coco’s story is fast-paced and engaging throughout, and follows one boy’s journey to discover the dark origins of his family’s past. It emphasises the importance on the balance between chasing one’s dreams and supporting the family who raised you, all while representing the traditions and mythos surrounding the Mexican holiday Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead). In that sense, it is another great effort by Pixar in portraying a world community, in essence making the world a smaller, more educated place. The film instils in us compassion towards its characters, who are developed in a way that, by the end of the film, has huge potential to move anyone to tears. And if a film’s responsibility is to make you feel, then Coco has certainly overachieved by a large margin.
Un Poco Loco
Really, the most blatant flaw with Coco isn’t even part of the movie. It’s the 20-minute Frozen short that comes before the film. Uninspired and just too long, it’s an unwelcome departure from the usual creative shorts that precede a Pixar movie. Though Disney has reportedly removed the short from the movie in U.S. and Mexican cinemas, it still plays in other theaters around the world. As for the film proper, I only have one real gripe with it, and since it’s an important plot point, it’s impossible to discuss it without giving any spoilers away. Just know that it has something to do with a photograph.
The fact that the Chinese Censorship Bureau, notoriously known for banning films with ‘superstitious’ and ‘supernatural’ content, allowed the ghost-filled Coco to screen in China just goes to show how good this film is. Coco is a great film for what it presents and represents: An all-Latino cast in a great film about family, acceptance, dreams and memories. Pixar’s first venture into films with several musical numbers (though the film isn’t a musical) is a straight home-run, and is recommended viewing for all audiences of all ages. I, for one, will remember this film for my list of 2017’s best movies, but others will probably be remembering this film for many years to come.
Overall Score: 9.0/10