By Adam Ray Palmer
It’s another year, and it’s another Pixar-Walt Disney collaboration of sheer genius.
We’ve had Moana, Inside Out and now the Oscar-winning Coco. Directed by Lee Unkrich; Coco stars Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt and Alanna Ubach.
Colourful and vibrant movie Coco follows Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a young Mexican boy born into a family of zapateros (shoemakers). For four generations before him, his family has placed a ban on anyone in the family playing or listening to music as Miguel’s great-great-grandfather left his wife Imelda to be a musician, and never to return. However, Miguel loves to secretly play and he’s very good at it, yearning to be a famous musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), the long-dead singer/actor from Miguel's hometown. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel somehow gets transported to the Land of the Dead. There, he meets with his deceased relatives and learns he can only return to the world of the living with a dead ancestor's blessing.
Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) inserts a no-music clause into her blessing, so Miguel flees her and the rest of his skeletal relatives in search of de la Cruz, whom he believes to be his great-great-grandfather. Miguel teams up with Hector (Gael García Bernal), a scheming skeleton who claims to know de la Cruz, on his journey to find the dead idol and earn his blessing, musician to musician. Hector too has his own agenda.
Coco features an all-star Latino voice cast (including Gael García Bernal and Benjamin Bratt), as well as a Latino co-director and many Latino crew members. It is an amazing tribute to Mexican traditions and customs. The movie has powerful themes of perseverance, teamwork, and gratitude and encourages audiences to love and appreciate their family and always follow their dreams. Its core message is so strong to so many children, and to be honest, it’s thought-provoking to most adults too.
Coco is beautifully animated, and culturally sensitive. The film is extremely layered with coming-of-age topics to boot. To name a few themes, Coco explores the traditions of the Day of the Dead, a child's desire to become a musician despite his family's wishes, and the power of unconditional love. The movie is made up of so many beautifully-crafted sequences that make your heart melt. One scene in particular between Miguel and the titular character, Miguel's wheelchair-bound great-grandmother (Ana Ofelia Murguía), will bring a tear to most eyes. The young wannabe musician performs the Oscar- winning song "Remember Me," an original track from Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, to Coco to help her reminisce about her father. It’s haunting, poignant and touching.
Overall, Pixar and Disney triumph once again. They just seem to deliver every year. I loved Moana and Zootropolis in recent years, but Coco touched me further. I have a personal connection to dementia and it really made me think. I can’t believe that such a difficult subject can be discussed so eloquently, colourfully and with so much warmth on screen in what is talked about as a ‘kids’ film. All I will leave you with is this: as I left the theatre and went to the toilet, I heard a young boy say to his father “is that where grandma is daddy? With the rest of our family [who] we don’t see anymore?” – that’s what your films do Disney and Pixar. Bravo.
Cineroom’s rating: 5 stars
Coco is out in cinemas and on DVD later this year – certificate PG