Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Pixar's nineteenth feature isn't one of the studio's best, but it does display plenty of heart. We open to extended narration setting up the life and family of young Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) whose family's hatred of music makes the first-half of the movie seem like Footloose with dead people. More than anything in the world Miguel wants to be a musician which, through a somewhat convoluted series of events, sends him into the netherworld on Día de Muertos when the spirits can leave the Land of the Dead and visit their living relatives (only if their families have remembered to place their picture in the family ofrenda, or altar).

Once Miguel is loose in the Land of the Dead, with only a single day to find his way back home, the film picks up. After meeting relatives whose blessing he needs to return to the land of the living, but who will provide it only if the boy promises to give up his music, Miguel goes in search of his long lost great-great grandfather who he believes to be one of the greatest musicians of all time (Benjamin Bratt). Relying on the help of a dog and a skeleton named Hector (Gael García Bernal), Miguel begins his quest.

The family's distrust of music, and odd shoe fetish, is pretty damn simplistic in terms of the main conflict to set Miguel's on his path. However, the longer Miguel stays in among the odd skeleton spirits, the more interesting the story becomes. Coco has some twist and turns, including a fairly obvious one crucial to Miguel's journey. The Land of the Dead proves to be an intriguing place in both terms of grand design and small details (such as the touching short cameo by Edward James Olmos).

It's in the revelation of where the film's title comes from, and the connection to our protagonist, that the film taps into unexpected depth not found in Coco's early scenes. Compared to some of the studio's best, Coco is a mixed success, but still a solid animated feature. Michael Giacchino (Up, The Incredibles, Inside Out, Zootopia) wrote the film's score which provides the film with good energy throughout, even if none of the original songs by Germaine Franco, Adrian Molina, Robert Lopez, and Kristen Anderson-Lopez is a real stand-out.

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