Reviews: “magically melodic” – Pixar’s Coco
Directed by Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Starring Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Renee Victor, Alanna Ubach, Jaime Camil
The latest film from Disney Pixar brings us to Mexico where a young boy, whose family history is marred by a forefather leaving to pursue a music career, and therefore he is forbidden from pursuing his dream of playing the guitar and being like his hero. One night though, he breaks into the crypt of the village idol who was a famous singer to steal his guitar and be able to perform at the talent show. Miguel then gets lost in the underworld where he refuses to return to the land of the living because his ancestors want him to swear off music.
I honestly thought when I saw the previews for Coco that this was merely the Pixar version of The Book of Life. I almost wrote it off in my head then and there, because I hate lazy writing. I want to apologise to the creative team at Pixar and Disney for making that assumption. In fact Coco is beautifully and magically melodic.
The story is far from original, but it’s that Disney and Pixar magic that they do so well, that lifts it above average – actually it’s raised above really really good. But the characters are something special and this is again becoming a trademark for Pixar, with even background player characters being well designed and fleshed out, so to speak (considering many are basically skeletons!). In most animations that we see you can find repeats of character design over and over again throughout the film, and for someone like me, who pays attention it’s like that moment in Scooby Doo cartoons of the past. Those moments when Scooby and Shaggy are running down hallways for a few moments that mean that you’re seeing the same plant pot over and over again. But Pixar don’t want that for the audience. Every time you look at a different part of the screen there are different lives going on, it’s like people watching at an airport, you see thousands of lives going on around your own, all individual. It’s really marvellous.
As Miguel goes through the land of the dead he’s greeted by various characters, some are relations and others are just trying to remain remembered in the living world. The dead are all struggling to remain remembered by someone in the land of the living otherwise they will fade away. This is facing Hector who is trying to get back to his daughter so she knows that he never forgot about her. Hector and Miguel become partners in their quests and the design of the land of the dead is just brilliant. There are musical moments through the film, funny and sad, and the song Remember Me is going to be a staple at a lot of funerals in the future.
What is admirable here is that Disney Pixar are doing what they do best, creating a complete world, and playing my damn emotions like a violin. I would be laughing one moment, then tapping my foot the next along with a tune, and then Niagara Falls as the love for the characters build towards the end. The voice acting is perfect.
We don’t give scores here, it’s something I like about writing for Forbidden Planet, we can explore thoughts about films without having to think about numbers, those damn numbers. But I can’t find a fault to this film. It’s not a rip off of another movie, it explores family and destiny, in a way that Disney can do in their sleep. While the beating heart of the film is set in Mexico I can see, because I’m Irish, a lot of our own family values in the movie (and some human qualities, notably family and mortality, are pretty universal). This film opened last year in America and I guess because of a Galaxy Far Far Away they held it back from European eyes, so we are very late getting it. But the tones and themes that we see in Coco are important for children of all ages to approach and learn from. It’s not just entertainment, it’s a slice of family life, and death.