Film Review: Pixar's "Coco" is a thoughtful, poignant, and entertaining adventure for all ages
As I walked into the screening of Pixar’s Coco, the organisers were pleased to tell me of the complimentary Zooper Doopers and balloon guitars that were available for the attendees. I smiled at the thoughtfulness, then paused while doing the mental math:
Children + Sugar + Potentially Exploding Objects ≠ Enjoyable Viewing Experience
Preparing myself for the worst, I made my way to the back of the cinema. I sat and watched children attempting cartwheels and round offs, envious of their athletic prowess, whilst stress-eating almonds.
The cinema was fortunate enough to miss out on the short, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, a 21-minute romp that received so much backlash that it has since been pulled from the screenings in the US, so I am unable to comment on it. However, once Coco started, a hush came over the crowd and I didn’t hear one scream or balloon pop for the entire two-hour runtime. A feat in itself.
Coco follows Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old boy with a great passion for music. His aspirations face conflict, as his family has a blanket ban on music due to his great-great-grandfather abandoning the family to pursue a musical career. Inspired by recordings of the “most famous musician in the history of Mexico”, the late Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), Miguel decides to enter the Day of the Dead talent show. This familial rebellion results in Miguel finding himself trapped in the world of those who have crossed over, and the only way to return is to find his relatives and receive their blessing. Miguel is fortunate enough to bump into his relatives right away, so this should have a simple solution, right? Wrong. He is provided with a conditional blessing, “You may return to home, but you must never play music ever again”. Unable to stay true to this agreement, Miguel sets off to find a family member who does support his musical aspirations.
The family vs. passion arc is a popular one in children’s films. Troy wanted to sing, but he was expected to play basketball in High School Musical; Moana wanted to go out into the ocean instead of stay on the island in Moana; and in She’s the Man, Viola just wanted to play football. It’s a familiar trope that resonates with children and preteens, so it’s used time and time again. And that’s fine. There is always a moral to Disney/Pixar movies, and this one might have been expected and laid on thick, but it still resulted in a few tears from the audience.
The announcement of a minority lead was exciting and has already been well received by the Latino community. After brief backlash from their attempt to trademark the original title of the film for marketing purposes (yep, the original title was Dia de los Muerto), Disney hired experts from the Latino community to provide aid in the production. The end result is culturally conscious and educational for the viewer. Family traditions and folklore surrounding Day of the Dead are tied in with music and artwork that accurately reflect on the culture. The music covers various styles and was composed by Academy Award winner Michael Giacchino (Best Musical Score, Up) with the aid of musicians local to Mexico City.
Overall, this film was highly enjoyable. Despite its length, it didn’t drag, and every scene felt appropriate. There were a few twists and turns that kept the older audience engaged, and the bright colours and skeleton hijinks kept the children laughing. The animation quality was outstanding, city landscapes were of photo quality. The attention to detail on small things, such as the cobbled roads or fur of animal sidekicks was impressive, making it easier to get lost in the film. Some of the themes were surprisingly adult: death, betrayal, and abandonment. This resulted in the audience’s investment in the characters, creating an enjoyable film for all ages.
In short, this film was overflowing with heart. It was a bright musical adventure that left you with a smile on your face. Children should definitely see this film, and you should volunteer to babysit them when they do, so you can see it too.