COCO (USA/PG/104mins)
Directed by Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina. Starring Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Edward James Olmos, Alanna Ubach
THE PLOT: Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) wants nothing more than to be a musician, but his family has outlawed music since his great grandfather abandoned the family before he was born. Desperate to play on the Day of the Dead, Miguel finds himself accidentally entering the Land of the Dead to try and solve the family mystery.
THE VERDICT: Already a massive hit in Mexico, ‘Coco’ is Pixar’s latest animated feature; the first from ‘Toy Story 3’ director Lee Unkrich since his foray into the land of Buzz, Woody and pals, and although ‘Coco’ has the trademark beauty of a Pixar film, there is some of the magic missing in this spooky story of skeletons and family.
The voice cast is an impressive one, including Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Edward James Olmos, Alanna Ubach and relative newcomer Anthony Gonzalez as the young and enthusiastic Miguel. The voice cast do well with bringing their characters to life, and the emotion in the film comes from the performances behind the camera.
Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich’s screenplay, from a story by Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz, Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich, is not the first Pixar film to deal with uncomfortable subjects, but it is the first to truly deal with death, and what may happen after we depart this world. The Land of the Dead is a wonderful idea, and lends itself to adventure and fun, and as always with Pixar films, leaves the audience wanting to see more of the world that they have created on screen. That said, some elements of the film feel rather familiar, and those that do not, feel obvious, as though they are a long time coming before they actually are revealed on screen. This goes a long way to diluting the emotional impact of the film, leaving it feeling a lot more flat that the Pixar films that have gone before.
As directors, Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina have created a beautiful world in ‘Coco’, and although the film deals with some of the darker sides of life – and the after life – this darkness is well balanced throughout, and should not be a deterrent to grown ups bringing the littler members of the audience to see the film. As well as this, the voice performances are strong and engaging, making the characters endearing and warm. That said, some of the emotional punches of the film feel as though they are missing – although this could be the fault of a predictable script – so moments that should have drama and impact end up feeling deflated and underwhelming.
In all, however, ‘Coco’ is a beautifully designed film that has a lot of fun with the adventure elements of the story; it just lacks the emotional strength and impact of Pixar films that have gone before. There is a lot to enjoy about ‘Coco’, not least the carefully handled darkness and adventure, but there is a predictable feel to the film that drowns out some of the moments that should have been the emotional hits.
RATING: 3.5/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    Of late, Pixar’s output has only been consistent in the sense that for every hit there’s a corresponding miss. For every Finding Dory, there’s a Good Dinosaur. Last summer, there was Cars 3 (why do they persist with that unloved franchise?) and thankfully the flipside is the delightful Coco. It’s a Mexican-infused family fantasy that is true to the spirit of Dia De Los Muertos, a day in which Mexican families remember their dearly departed loved ones. It’s also an incredibly moving and visually spectacular film that might just be the great animation house’s best film since Wall-E.

    12-year-old Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) lives with his family and relatives in a picturesque Mexican village. He dreams of being a musician, like his legendary great-great grandfather Ernesto (Benjamin Bratt). However, his family has a long-standing ban on music due to Ernesto walking out on his wife and young daughter, Coco. As the Dia De Los Muertos (Day Of The Dead) celebrations approach in the village, Miguel finds himself transported to the colourful land of the dead. With the help of his scraggly dog Dante and lost bag of bones Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), Miguel sets out to find Ernesto and restore the family’s legacy of beautiful music before it’s too late and he turns into a skeleton himself…

    They may have lost sight of it recently, but story is king at Pixar. Written by co-directors Lee Unkrich and Alfred Molina along with Matthew Aldrich, Coco sees young Miguel uncover some truths about his family’s past, which they would otherwise prefer to forget. It becomes so much more than that though. The multi-layered story takes Miguel between the dimensions of the living and the dead, as he ensures that his deceased relatives are not forgotten back home. That simple idea of remembering family is encapsulated in a hauntingly beautiful song, Remember Me, which must surely get an Oscar nomination.

    Pixar’s commitment to an authentic Mexican experience extends to the voice cast, who eschew stereotypes for a more soulful line delivery and are all Hispanic. Well, except for Pixar’s lucky charm, John Ratzenberger. You only have to look at the end credits to see all the consultants, towns and people in Mexico that they thanked. The ethnic visual imagination on display is quite astounding, from colourful Mexican winged creatures to gorgeously designed sets, costumes and otherwordly characters. No need for 3D here – it’s an eye-popping visual feast rendered in almost tangible animation. All of which serves the story, which has more heart in its final few minutes than most live action films.

    Truly excellent films don’t have to have complex plots or try to impress you too much with technical wizardry. Sometimes a simple, heartfelt idea is enough to carry a film from being initially good into the realm of a modern classic. Coco is such a film, starting out good and progressively getting better and better with each turn of plot, wink of humour and flash of visual style. Pixar don’t set a single skeletal foot wrong here, so it immediately enters the hall of classic Pixar. Simply unmissable. *****