by Jenniffer Wardell
Rated PG for thematic elements
Original story by Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz, Matthew Aldrich and Adrian Molina, screenplay by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich
Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Starring Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Jaime Camil, Alfonso Arau, Ana Ofelia Murguía and more
Grade: Four stars
Spend some time with “Coco” this holiday season.
The latest storytelling wonder from Pixar, “Coco” is a beautiful, entertaining, fun and ultimately deeply moving look at the power of family, the love of music, and what it means to truly achieve your dreams. It’s both a wonderful representation of a culture that doesn’t get much play in American movies and a universally approachable story that’s sure to steal your heart. It’s everything we all want a Pixar movie to be and more.
The movie focuses on Miguel, a young boy who dreams of music but was born into a family who doesn’t allow any in the house. In a desperate attempt to prove himself and follow his dream, he ends up accidentally trapped in the Land of the Dead trying to find his one ancestor who loved music. As secrets are revealed and wrongs righted, Miguel and the rest of his family have to decide what’s truly important.
The story that unfolds has several classic elements, but still manages to be something not often seen in animated movies. Though I predicted one of the big plot twists a little before the reveal I completely missed the second, and at the end everything hangs together so perfectly there’s no other way it could have gone.
There were some rumors early on about “Coco” being a knockoff of “The Book of Life,” but that’s definitely not the case. Though they share some of the same themes – a love of music, family, and finding a balance between the two – the stories are delightfully different. The aesthetic similarities come from Mexican culture, and are simply proof that both movies are faithful to the cultures they represent.
That aesthetic is only one of the ways that “Coco” is an incredibly gorgeous movie. The lines are crisp, the colors are brilliant, the textures are lush, and the level of detail makes you want to immerse yourself in almost every background. The Land of the Dead is an absolute delight, with a wonderfully inventive range of spirit guides and a host of creative nuances, but the same beauty and attention to detail are also present in the more mundane living world as well.
The Day of the Dead celebration represented in the movie was both a delight to see and a powerful representation of what the holiday truly means. Even Utah families who don’t follow the traditions themselves will be touched by the strong emphasis on love and the importance of family.
It helps that the characters are adorable. The family has a completely understandable reason for hating music, and it’s clear they love Miguel even if they don’t understand him. Miguel is both sweet and stubborn, wonderful even though he isn’t perfect, and Hector balances his comedy with an inherent dignity and heartache. Even supporting characters who aren’t onscreen for very long get lovely grace notes of humor and emotion.
Despite the fact that several of the characters are skeletons, this is exactly the sort of emotional, heartwarming family movie that’s perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other time of year.
(Photo courtesy of Disney/Pixar)