‘COCO’ (2017) Movie Review – A Culturally Rich Look at the Importance of Family, Life, and Death
Coco is Pixar’s latest feature length animation and if we’re sticking with their incredible track record this should be a phenomenal film….. and for sure it is. Coco follows a young boy named Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) who despite his family’s distaste for music strives to become a musician much like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). His passions takes him on a wild adventure through the Land of the Dead where he comes across a flurry of new and interesting characters. I had all the faith in the world that this was going to be a smash hit but for whatever reason wasn’t all too excited in seeing it. And in walking out of this movie I realised there wasn’t a single minute that was boring and I thoroughly enjoyed this from beginning to end. The plot progresses at an immaculately steady pace and is full of clever humour and a strong amount of heavy emotional weight. It deals with themes revolving around family, life, and death and does so in a very family friendly manner whilst still getting the importance of the messages across. And as per usual from Pixar, the film is animated stunningly to where the Land of the Dead comes to life.
I want to begin with the performances because Pixar has gone and hired an entirely Latino cast to fill every role and it pays off incredibly well when it comes to drawing you in and securing you in this world. Every performance in here is spectacular, especially from the young Anthony Gonzalez who steals the show as Miguel. The kid really commits to the role, creates a very loveable character and pulls off some of the tougher emotional moments with ease. The supporting roles from Benjamin Bratt who plays Ernesto to Gael Garcia Bernal who plays Hector are just as entertaining and powerful and they all enhance each others performances whenever they interact. I found myself getting almost instantly attached to so many characters it’s insane, even those who are on screen for a very limited amount of time I felt some sort of attachment to by the end which is just awesome. On top of the performances this comes down to the writing which is a remarkable effort by Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz, Matthew Aldrich, and Adrian Molina where every detail from the obvious to the subtle is tied together very well.
One of the elements of this film that made it feel so refreshingly new is the way it deeply explores Mexican culture through the core focus of its story. The Day of the Dead (El Dia de los Muertos) factors heavily into the plot and obviously the Land of the Dead is the setting for much of the movie so everything is deeply rooted in this culture and immensely fascinating for it. Everything from the visual elements to the music is constantly paying respect to Mexican culture and what makes this time of the year such a special occasion. It at times deals with some very important themes that go into the significance of family and a certain outlook on life, death, and how they interact and every moment of this was fascinating. It doesn’t beat you on the head with it and not a lot of it will be entirely taken in by the younger audience but it works greatly in appealing to a wider more adult audience, further giving everyone a reason to watch and enjoy this movie.
In the end I was very much in love with this movie throughout, the characters, music, animation, and plot all work in tandem to create what is definitely the best animated film of the year so far. Lee Unkrich directs and Adrian Molina co-directs here and the’ve really executed everything to the point where I don’t really have any negatives I can pull from it. I strongly recommend checking this movie out as it is most definitely not one to be missed in 2017.