Coco: Pixar’s Mexican Splash

Film Review

    Coco is a real winner. Full of heart, a great theme of family, and some absolutely gorgeous animation, it may be among Pixar’s best. Certainly, it’s one of the best they’ve done this decade. Coco is the nineteenth film from Pixar’s animation studio. It is the story of an aspiring young boy musician in Mexico named Miguel, whose family has banned music in their home for years. Eager to become an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, Miguel accidentally finds himself stuck in the land of the dead following a series of events. He ends up encountering a trickster, named Hector, and together they set out to find de la Cruz. On the way, they discover Miguel’s family history.

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    In regards to Coco’s animation, stunning wouldn’t even be good enough to describe the film. On a technical level, it’s pure amazement. The backgrounds are so good and photorealistic, there were points when I was questioning whether ir not what I was watching was real. For example, when we see a plate of food in one scene, it almost looks like it’s actually there. It’s that good. Additionally the Day of the Dead world is colorful and creative, and the visuals are eye-popping with skeletons moving around, falling apart, and then rebuilding themselves, among other things. Director Lee Unkrich and the animators go for a variety of animation styles, too. From the flashbacks being in black and white to the opening resembling fabric, this is one creative film.

    But, that’s not all that the film has going for it. A lot of Coco’s true strength lies in its characters. As a protagonist, Miguel, is very likable and relatable, as a stubborn and headstrong young boy. Even if the story is a bit cliché and overdone, I bought into his quest to become a great musician, and find it to be an endearing character trait. He’s helped by Dante, a dog, who is almost like the personification of every dog that I know. Acting dumb, but also super loyal. There’s also Hector, Ernesto de la Cruz’s former partner, who plays a major role in the film, and Ernesto himself, a very joyous, famous, deceased singer who Miguel looks up to. Additionally, there are various deceased relatives of Miguel, including his great great-grandmother, Imelda, who wants him to leave the Day of the Dead world and to disassociate himself with music in the process. There’s also Miguel’s own family, including his grandmother Coco (who the film is named after), who do add some conflict, and drive the story forward.

    Coco has also the distinction of being Pixar’s first musical, but not in the traditional sense of breaking out into big musical numbers. Instead, most of the songs in Coco are traditional songs that are played by Miguel throughout the film. The songs are co-written by Germaine Franco and co-director, Adrian Molina. The main song, repeated throughout the film in various forms, is a tune called Remember Me written by husband and wife songwriting team, Robert and Kristen Lopez, who also did the song, Frozen. At first glance, it seems like a generic ballad, but when applied to the film, it’s actually a brilliant song performed by De La Cruz (played by Benjamin Bratt), Hector (played by Gael Garcia Bernal), and Miguel (played by Anthony Gonzales). Remember Me fits into the film’s theme of remembrance, and how it links to Miguel’s family members and ancestors over the years. It’s such an infectious melody, it stuck in my head long after I left the theater. The other songs, Un Poco Loco, The World Es Mi Familia,  and Proud Corazon are also good, and even have more of an authentic Mexican feeling. But, it’s Remember Me that sticks out most of all. Helping with the Mexican tone is Michael Giacchino’s score (his sixth for Pixar), which bases its main theme around a wishful sounding guitar theme.

    This is really a film that people need to see for themselves. It goes off in directions I didn’t even see coming. It’s a visually animated treat, and features a touching moving story with memorable characters. With Coco, Pixar proves, they’ve still got it.

Now playing in Lebanon at Entertainment Cinemas Monday - Thursday at 3:00 and 6:30 PM, Friday at 2:15, 4:35, 7:00, and 9:30 PM, and Saturday and Sunday at 11:45 AM, 2:15, and 4:35, 7:00, and 9:30 PM.

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