IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 107 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera,Official HCF Critic
Santa Cecilia, Mexica. Imelda Rivera was the wife of a musician who abandoned her and her daughter, Coco, to pursue a career in music. She banned music in the family and opened a shoemaking family business. Her great-great-grandson, Miguel, now lives with the elderly Coco and their family. He dreams of becoming a musician like Ernesto de la Cruz, a popular actor and singer of Imelda’s generation who was killed by a falling bell. One day, Miguel discovers that he’s Ernesto ‘s descendant, and enters his mausoleum to steal his guitar for a talent show on the Day of the Dead festival, but becomes invisible to everyone – well, except all the skeletons he’s now able to see….
Sometimes treading on similar ground to 2014’s The Book Of Life, but a much more fulfilling piece of animated cinema, Coco is possibly even better than Pixar’s last much needed return to original material, and proves once again that when Pixar is on fire few can match them – though I must point out that two mothers left the screen with their respective kids during the screening I was at, which wasn’t very well attended to due it taking place at10.40 in the morning on a Wednesday. The Book Of Life also dealt with death and the underworld, but felt a need to constantly pile on the slapstick and jokes so the film was more accessible for small children. Coco, while it does have plenty of humour including a comedy dog and probably every gag involving skeletons and their bones you can think of, essentially takes its story seriously. The first section does perhaps ram home too often the idea that Miguel’s family has banned music and he’s rebelling against this – yes folks, we got it 15 minutes ago. But the storytelling is already clever – several times throughout the picture, a family photograph is a source of clues to the twists and turns that follow – and the whole outlook is highly commendable, the look at traditional Mexican culture refreshingly non-American in point of view, though I was just pleased that somebody pronounced Mexico properly for once in a film.
Once Miguel tries to steal that guitar, things really kick into high gear and never slacken, though we never do find out exactly why playing that guitar makes Miguel half-dead and half-alive. The land of the dead is rife with great touches, from the psychedelically coloured spirit creatures who could have come from a Hayao Miyazaki film to the rundown area peopled by characters who aren’t being remembered by anyone up above, and therefore can’t visit their relatives on the Day of the Dead and will fade away to nothingness. Indeed Miguel may end up totally dead if he doesn’t return to the land of the living before sunrise, but has to receive a blessing from a member of his family[ and his family don’t particularly like him right now]. Could the world famous Ernesto de la Cruz, still doing gigs in the underworld, help him out? There are a couple of surprises in the story which certainly surprised me, though there’s a back to basics feel about the overall tale which is not at all a bad thing. Things end up hinging on more than anything else whether an old lady with alzheimers will remember somebody else, the employment of a song entitled Remember Me threatening to match When She Loved Me in the Pixar musical tear-eruption stakes. The alternating of glowing brightness with bit of glum darkness makes for a visually diverse experience that never outstays its welcome. A Who’s Who of Latin-American talent all provide excellent voice work while Michael Giacchino’s Mexican flavoured scores is one of his best in some time. A loving tribute to both the beauty and the pain of family as well as the wonder that is music, Coco – well, I’m going to have to think about this – but it could be one of Pixar’s finest works.