Sunday, November 26, 2017

Review of COCO: Ancestral Approval

November 25, 2017




When I first saw the trailer of this new Pixar movie "Coco", I was turned off by the several similar elements to another animated film, "The Book of Life" (Jorge R. Gutierrez, 2014) (MY REVIEW). However despite my initial reluctance, the initial reviews that came out for "Coco" were overwhelmingly positive, so of course, we could not possibly give it a miss.

12 year old Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) dreamed of becoming a musician like his idol, the late pop icon and movie star, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt, with Antonio Sol as his singing voice). However, his family vehemently opposed Miguel's musical aspirations. This was because they carried a cross-generational grudge against his great-great-great grandfather, a musician who had abandoned his wife Imelda (Allana Ubach) and infant daughter Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía) in order to pursue stardom. 

On one Day of the Dead, Miguel discovered evidence that seemed to indicate that he was actually the great-great-great grandson of Ernesto de la Cruz himself. Magical events transport Miguel over into the land of the dead. A desperate dead guy named Hector (Gael García Bernal) offered to help Miguel locate Ernesto de la Cruz. In exchange, Miguel promised to bring Hector's picture back to the land of the living so that he would not be forgotten by his daughter. 

First and foremost, similarities with "The Book of Life" were really there. Both films were set on the Mexican Day of the Dead and involved a trip of the hero to a busy city of the afterlife. Both films were about a boy whose dream of becoming a musician (specifically, a guitarist) was being opposed to by his family. Because of these common themes, you can note several common references to colorful vibrant Mexican customs about death and the family. 

Of course, the main story of "Coco" did go into a totally different direction. While "Book" had a love triangle of Manolo, Joaquin and Maria as a backbone, "Coco" was basically about the coming of age of one boy Miguel while dealing different generations within the same family, both living and dead. There is that very common Disney theme of going for your dream, even if it meant going against the wishes of your elders. 

As told by director Lee Unkrich from a story he himself developed, "Coco" had the trademark charming, funny, sentimental Pixar style, going for the tear ducts of the audience. It beautifully dealt with old age, death and afterlife as normal parts of life, with top-of-the-line animation effects we expect from Pixar and catchy songs we can sing along with.  Expecting this to take the lead in the race for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. 8/10. 


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