COCO (9 out of 10) Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina; Written by Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz, Matthew Aldrich, and Adrian Molina; Starring Anthony Gonzalez, GAel Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna ubach, Renee Victor, Jaime Camil, Alfonso Arau, and Herbert Siguenza; Rated PG ; Running time 109 minutes; In wide release November 27.
Lee Unkrich, director of Toy Story 3, brings his long in development story about a young would-be musician named Miguel whose family has forbidden him to become a musician. He travels to the Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertos in order to gain the blessing of his ancestors to pursue his musical aspirations. Naturally, things get more complicated.
Bryan: As with any Pixar film, there are two warnings you should always heed and Coco is no exception: don’t wear eye-makeup if you’re so inclined, and bring tissues. This film, like most films that come from Disney’s Pixar studio, brings an emotional, essential, and universal truth to the storytelling that crosses all cultures and audiences in order to deliver something magical.
Adam: Yes, you will definitely want to bring along some tissues as Coco will tug at your heartstrings and lead to a few tears of both pain and joy. Now that said, it’s nowhere near as moving as the likes of Inside Out and Bing Bong, but there’s enough here to stir emotions and move the heart. If anything, by the time I got done, it definitely made me want to talk to my family and check up on them to see how they have been doing, so make sure to take your parents and siblings with you to go see it.
Bryan: The film is truly wondrous and so original and authentic in its concept that it’s hard to find touchstones in other media that might have informed it. Obviously, it’s dripping in the Pixar formula but parts of it feel very old Disney. The musician that Miguel seeks out in the afterlife, Ernesto de la Cruz, feels almost like Guy Williams had been bred with Vicente Fernandez. We’re even treated to old black and white films from his past that remind us visually of these eras of old Disney filmmaking.
Adam: Pixar outdoes themselves once again with one of the most beautiful movies they’ve ever made. The Land of the Dead is bursting with light, color and character, and even from what has been shown in the trailers cannot compare to the experience of seeing this on the big screen. Oh, and make sure to see it in 2D. I can’t think of viewing it with what are essentially sunglasses to see it in 3D as that would greatly affect just how beautiful and colorful this film is.
Bryan: The structure of the film really does feel Pixar, which makes it almost predictable in some ways. But I can’t tell if it’s because the movie is really predictable, or I’ve just seen enough to know where the twists and turns are coming. And even when seeing a character or situation appear and say to myself, “Oh, this is the situation there,” and have it turn out to be true, there were still enough twists and turns that I couldn’t predict.
Adam: It is predictable, but then the enjoyment of Coco is the journey and not so much the destination. Yes, we’ve seen this type of story before, and certain beats have been repeated so many times, especially in Disney films, that anyone familiar with them can guess exactly when and how certain scenes will play out in order to move the plot along. But this pales in comparison to the world that has been built for Miguel to explore as well as the intriguing and fun characters who inhabit it. That said there was a pretty fun plot twist towards the end that had a genuinely surprising reveal that made the film even that much more interesting as well as making the theme of love and family even stronger.
A feast for the ears and the eyes and the soul
Bryan: The visuals of the film are rich and vibrant. The lighting is nothing short of breathtaking. In an early scene, Miguel is locked up in an attic, watching old VHS tapes of his hero’s movies. The glow of the TV, the cracks in the roof allowing sunlight, and the candles of his shrine all combine into a hazy, ethereal light on Miguel as he strums his homemade guitar. The way it all blends together is truly something. And that’s just one scene. There are scenes lit by fireworks, others lit by moonlight. But the true feast of the eyes is in the land of the dead, where normal rules of light or architecture don’t quite apply.
Bryan: This film has excellent screenwriting on display from the very beginning. And when the plot threads all tie together, they do so in a way that is ultimately tearful and satisfying. It evokes the gamut of emotions we deal with as humans surrounding death and grief. But it does it in a way that’s sweet. Though I think it’s difficult to advocate the idea of an afterlife, I think more children’s fare should deal with the idea of confronting death and not thinking of it as the end as long as we’re in the memory of those we leave behind. Kids need things that help them process those emotions, and Coco feels like the perfect vehicle for that.
Adam: The Book of Life handled Dia de los Muertos a few years back, and as entertaining as it was, Pixar really nails the look and feel of the holiday while still respecting the culture and people that surround it. It was truly refreshing to see a movie about Mexican people and their heritage voiced by actual Latino actors. For as much as we’ve dealt with white-washing roles even in movies from just a few months ago a la Ghost in the Shell, it was a wise choice to allow these actors to accurately portray their culture. And yes, there is a lot of Spanish spoken throughout the movie with no subtitles. This might make certain parts a little hard for kids who have never taken a Spanish class to understand, but it’s all pretty easy to figure out as the characters emote what their saying so beautifully that it doesn’t even matter so much that they’re speaking a different language.
Bryan: This film was a delight. It was colorful and full of soul. It was a feast for the ears and the eyes and the soul. Despite a few quirks of predictability, this is one of Pixar’s finest and earns a full 9 of 10 from me.
Adam: Coco is fantastic and easily the best animated movie of the year. Pixar once again proves that they are on the top of their game when it comes to the art they regularly produce, and Coco ranks up there with some of the best they’ve ever done. Grab your family and go see this as soon as you can. And if they can’t go with you, you’ll want to give them a call as soon as you get out to tell them you love them. 9 out of 10
9 out of 10