★★★ 1/2 out of ★★★★
Coco’s main character, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), is a little boy who has aspirations to be a great guitarist. But several generations ago, Miguel’s distant grandfather left the family to pursue music. This left such a painful void that all forms of music became forbidden. Even strumming a guitar can get you banished. Miguel’s only outlet is in the attic where he can play along with old video of his idol, the late Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).
When Miguel’s family discovers he’s been secretly playing music, their reaction is uncalled for. His grandmother breaks his guitar with no remorse. But what his family doesn’t realize is that it’s not a want for Miguel to play and perform, it’s a need… it is his destiny. Miguel runs away from their rigid rules but running away on the Day of the Dead is a dangerous game. He ends up in the land of the dead with all of his old relatives who’ve watched over him his entire life. The reunions are sweet and a little scary for Miguel. In the land of the dead, its residents are mostly bones and clothes but they’ve retained their former shape from life. So his tall skinny aunt is a tall skinny skeleton. His short plump uncle is a short plump skeleton . . . with a mustache.
And it’s a good thing he meets his family because the only way back to the mortal world is to receive a blessing from a family member. However, all of his family members add a special caveat, no music. Miguel refuses their blessing in pursuit of his distant grandfather and musician, Ernesto de la Cruz. In Miguel’s mind, de la Cruz will be understanding, give him his blessing, and send him on his merry way. But not everyone is who they appear to be. And for a trusting boy like Miguel, the land of the dead can lead down a treacherous path.
Coco isn’t exactly an easy movie to digest, and kids may have a difficult time with the subject matter. It’s something to consider as it will surely prompt some children to ask more about life, death and the afterlife. Coco views death in a surprisingly happy sense. Family members get to come back from the land of the dead as long as their family has pictures up to remember them. They get to enjoy their favorite foods and look at their relatives grow up. But what about people who don’t have family members hanging up their picture? They don’t get to cross over and see their family. And for people who have been forgotten, they kind of disappear. Like a final death, post-afterlife. They cease to exist. It’s something every spirit expects to encounter, but when it happens, it’s tragic.
Coco is a beautiful movie in this sense. It deals with a death in an interesting way that hopefully won’t devastate any children. And it’s kind of nice for adults too. It’s comforting thinking about the possibility that our family members don’t leave us. They’re with us to watch us grow up until we cross over to the other side.
The Good: Funny, entertaining and a gorgeous looking film. Possibly Pixar’s most visually appealing film yet.
The Bad: This movie has one too many contrivances. Rules are established that make little sense and seem to only be set in place to move the movie forward.
Final Word: There’s something of a blessing and a curse when your movie has a Pixar logo attached to it. On one hand, it benefits from the studio’s talented animators, writers and directors. On the other hand, it can be tough living up to movies like Inside Out or Toy Story. To live up to these expectations means achieving near cinematic perfection. Coco isn’t perfect but that’s okay because it is still pretty darn great.