Coco - 2017
Director(s): Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and Adrian Molina
Writer(s): Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz, Matthew Aldrich and Adrian Molina (story) / Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich (screenplay)
Cinematography by: Matt Aspbury and Danielle Feinberg
Editor(s): Steve Bloom and Lee Unkrich
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Renee Victor, Alanna Ubach and Anthony Gonzalez
Synopsis: Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery (IMDb).
Coco marks the first time Pixar Animations Studios has tackled the Hispanic heritage, Mexican in-particular, for the main setting of one of their movies. With last year’s Moana, Disney showed a level of respect and attention to detail needed to bring to life the Polynesian heritage many hold dear. After walking out of Moana, I instantly got excited for the potential Coco held to show part of my heritage up on the screen and treated with respect. I’m from Puerto Rico, but the one thing all Hispanics deeply share is our tough loving grandmothers who threaten us with their flip-flops (chancletas) and try to fatten us up with an excess of delicious food, even if we didn’t want it.
Director Lee Unkrich pitched the idea for Coco back when Toy Story 3 had been released, which he also directed. Unkrich has been a staple creator in Pixar being either an editor, a co-writer or a co-director on a total of 11 movies. Safe to say I knew this movie was in good hands. While Coco feels fresh and new, it still falls under the Pixar formula: Protagonist has a goal, faces adversity, sets himself on a path against all odds, learns a valuable lesson and reaches goal, it still felt fresh thanks to the musical angle. The use of music to inform the audience of the development of the characters was a great touch, especially as Miguel, voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, finds his voice and his singing style towards the end.
Quick note: the animation of the hands, fingers and strings of the guitar during all the playing scenes is mesmerizing. It looks as if it’s real hands playing real guitars thanks to the way the animators mapped the movements from musicians.
Once again Pixar manages to up their game when it came to the visuals. The use of the neon colors throughout this film sometimes is breath taking. The amount of detail that the animators gave the city is something that is hard to describe. Every building had a small detail, from skulls to hanging lanterns to neon color patterns; not a single building felt like it was rushed through rendering. They were inspired by the city of Guanajuato, and they did that city justice. Another great use of the neon colors was the coloring of their spirit animals (alebrije). One of them is a mixture of multiple animals, similar to a chimera from Greek culture, but its main body is feline. Its name is Pepita and its beautiful to look at; every color, every strand of hair and every feather stood out and ate up the screen.
Quick note: I was half blown away and half laughing at the animation that went into the grandmothers. The great grandmother’s skin and face was incredible… her hands looked just like my late grandmother’s. But, the arms of the grandmother were hilariously accurate as she wore a sleeveless shirt and her biceps flapped around every time she waved them in disapproval. Too real.
Pixar has an incredible track record for building their movies over a great message and Coco is no exception. The depiction of the importance of family and how traditions help keep them alive even after they have left us physically was one that I connected to deeply. I have always been a firm believer that nobody truly dies as long as we keep them alive in our hearts and minds. Telling and re-telling your favorite stories of them and what they meant to you in your growth as a human being honors them and keeps them alive for generations to come. Yeah, this had my wife and I crying our eyes out at a kids’ movie. Damn you Pixar.
Coco is a beautiful introduction to a culture many know nothing about or only have a base knowledge of. Making movies like this helps bridge the gaps that many face when trying to relate to other cultures. When you make it about the human experience, how all of us have some semblance of traditions that are passed down from generation to generation, you understand that its all the same. It’s about family, just colored differently in neon. The way Pixar was able to touch on the afterlife and the importance of family will benefit many kids growing up and help the parents lead meaningful conversations for years to come. Coco was all that I wanted and much more. Pixar is why I love movies.
Coco is currently playing in theaters. Go watch it and after you watch it go watch it again.
If you like this review let me know in the comment section down below. Also, follow me over at Twitter (@yILovemovies) or over on Facebook, so you can be up to date with all my reviews.