Dec-6-2017

Reel Snippet – Coco

Summary: For generations, the Rivera family has shunned music because a musician left their ancestor Imelda (Alanna Ubach) alone with her child to fend for herself. While Imelda turned her life around to make a successful and multigenerational shoemaking business, her great-great-grandson Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) has a love of music that can’t be quashed. When he breaks into the tomb of famous musician Ernesto De La Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) to practice on the dead man’s guitar on Dia de los Muertos — the Day of the Dead — he finds himself in the land of the dead and face to face with his deceased family members. Going back to the land of the living requires a family blessing, which they will only do if he gives up his pursuit of music. Finding this unacceptable, he goes off to find his long lost musician ancestor with the help of a nearly forgotten spirit named Héctor (Gael García Bernal). He has to find him before sunrise, or he will be trapped him in the land of the dead forever.

Review: Coco knocked my socks right off. I was admittedly a bit apprehensive at first because in the opening scenes, I felt like I knew this story back to front: a young dreamer wants to pursue the arts, but his pragmatic family won’t have any of it, so he has to find a way to change their mind with some supernatural help. I thought I had this movie pegged beat for beat down to the twist. NOPE! They threw me for a loop every step of the way, twisting every cliche to make something new and fresh.

The visuals are absolutely breathtaking and not just in the world of the dead. Miguel’s Mexican village feels absolutely lifelike through its details, buildings, and people, all of which are animated with such love that it really gives character to this mundane village. But let’s be real — the otherworld is where the most effort went and it shows. The colors are beautifully vibrant with so many contrasting and complementary hues that just pop out of the screen. The designs are brilliant as well, drawing from traditional Latin-American designs with a number of Aztec aesthetics thrown in, helped by the fact that it was inspired by the colorful Mexican city of Guanajuato. Also, for a world consisting entirely of skeletons, the movie sure knows how to make them all look distinct and unique.

Another outstanding element is the music and songs, all of which was composed by script writer Adrian Molina and composer Germaine Franco. This is the first Pixar movie that focuses heavily on music, though it’s worth noting that this is not a musical because the characters sing to perform rather than to express a feeling to no one in particular (i.e. more Blues Brothers than Beauty and the Beast). Honestly, they were so well put together, I actually thought they were traditional songs or ones that had been around for fifty years. I would gladly shell out money for the soundtrack because they’re so good, I’ve had them in my head since leaving the theater.

But to talk about something I really appreciated, I need to go into spoiler territory… though I’m still going to keep things vague because it would be a crime to spoil this movie.

[SPOILER ALERT… KINDA?]

Like many of Disney’s latest films, Coco employs the twist villain trope. While this has been decried as of late because it tends to produce weaker villains, I think it fits perfectly here. Not only is it cleverly foreshadowed since the beginning, but the character in question shows shades of it in their personality before the reveal. In fact, in a movie full of twists, I dare say this one is necessary for Miguel’s journey to maturity. So yeah, future movies should take note.

[WE’RE CLEAR OF… SORT OF SPOILERS…]

And oh yes, as per Pixar standard, Coco pulls at the heartstrings something fierce. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theater throughout the last few minutes, myself included. So yeah, as you can guess, Coco comes highly recommended. I don’t know if I’d call it “one of Pixar’s greats,” but that’s only because their movies break the mold and astounds the world so often that 70-80% of their work could be considered their “greats.” Me personally, though, I would gladly put this in my top five Pixar movies and would gladly buy it and watch every Dia de los Muertos.

Fun Tidbit: Since this is all about remembering those long gone, there are a ton of cameos in the land of the dead of actual deceased Mexican celebrities. The most obvious is famed painter Frida Kahlo, but careful viewers can also spot Mexican wrestler Santo, revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, actress María Félix, and actor-comedian Pedro Infante. According to director Lee Unkrich, though, those don’t even scratch the surface.


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