“Coco” is Pixar’s Dark, Dazzling, Heartwarming Masterpiece!
By Scott Kurland
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Alanna Ubach, Alfonso Arau, Renee Victor, Edward James Olmos, and Benjamin Bratt
Director: Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina (Co-Director)
Since I was seven years old, I have been scared of death. Actually, scared might be the wrong word. How about terrified?! Not knowing what happens to you after you leave this mortal coil was a constant concern of mine. I was seven and there were no books, TV shows, or films that were able to alleviate this fear. I mean, there was “Ghost Dad” and “What Dreams May Come;” but they left me with more questions than answers. Perhaps If I watched a film like “Coco,” my juvenile questions and fears would have been laid to rest. Let’s find out why that is shall we?
“Coco” is the story of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy living in Mexico. Miguel comes from a family of cobblers who have been making shoes for generations. This all started when Miguel’s great great grandfather left his wife Imelda (Alanna Ubach) to pursue his career in music. Miguel's family inherited Imelda's talent for making shoes and, unfortunately for the musically-inclined Miguel, her burning hatred for music. As a closeted musician, Miguel spends his days idolizing over his hero Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). When Miguel’s family forbids him from playing guitar ever again, he runs away and, through a series of strange circumstances, ends up in the land of the dead on Dia De Los Muertos. Now Miguel must learn about his ancestry as he is guided through the land of the dearly departed with the help of a lost soul name Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal).
“Coco” has now safely secured the number two spot on my top five favorite Pixar films list. To elaborate, its right below “Inside Out” and right above “Up!” Basically its the center of a Pete Docter sandwich. Not only is this Pixar’s most impressive film in terms of detail, but it's also Pixar’s darkest and most family-oriented film. “Coco” tackles some heavy themes such as abandonment, manipulation and even murder. Because of this, I would not recommend bringing your children to see this movie if they are under the age of eight. That said, it is an important film for children to see because its also about following your dreams, believing in yourself, and the importance of a strong support system. Director Lee Unkrich assembled a wonderful team to bring this story to screen ( including Chelmsford’s own Dean Kelly). Everyone working on this film does a fantastic job.
What's shocking about “Coco” is that its Pixar’s first true musical. Yes, the “Toy Story” films use songs as a storytelling device, but “Coco” is a full-on musical with characters actually singing songs. The music is phenomenal and captures the culture; easily done when you have Oscar-winning composer Michael Giacchino on your team. Giacchino is like Pixar’s John Williams. He has composed the scores to “Up!,” “Inside Out,” and “The Incredibles” just to name a few films. The score and songs are so beautiful. But they are just one of many elements that make “Coco” work.
“Coco” doesn’t have traditional big name voice actors like Dreamsworks has, but it has the right actors. One of my favorite casting choices was Alanna Ubach. Ubach has been around for years. She was in both “Legally Blonde” films as one of Reese Witherspoon's sidekicks. Here, she plays the matriarch of Miguels family in the land of the dead but her influence still felt above ground. Ubach brings so much to this role, as does young Gonzalez as Miguel. Still, the best performance in the film is Gael Garcia Bernal as Hector. Bernal is a gifted dramatic actor. He brings that dramatic flare to his layered performance as Hector. Hector is goofy, gifted and forlorn; all of which Bernal brings to the forefront of his character.
“Coco” is a beautiful story of tradition and family told through a special holiday. In this day and age, we need more films like this for our children to see. Although the subject matter gets intense at times, “Coco” is the perfect film for your child (provided they are on the older side). Younger children will love the colors, but the intense images may scare them. I do implore people to see this film though, because it is just too special to pass up.
REVIEW RATING: A