BETTER OFF DEAD
Review by Paul Preston
Coco is a Pixar original! Go see it ‘cause it’s the last one you’ll get until the 2020s. From now ‘til then, The Incredibles and the Toy Story franchise will each get one more film, but it’s the originals that consistently retain that Pixar magic that put them on the map (we’re not including The Good Dinosaur, and who would?).
Brave and Inside Out both won Oscars, and I’m predicting the same for Coco, a Pixar high point that hits all the best elements associated with Pixar – complicated story, top-notch animation and irresistible emotion. You can see some of the emotional moments coming, and they still get you.
The story concerns Miguel, a young boy fascinated by his musical idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, a balladeer who is everything – musician, actor, romancer and father figure. However, set up in a clever opening, music is not allowed in Miguel’s household because his great-great-grandfather left the family for a life in music, never to return. This left his great-great-grandmother to open a shoe store and pursue a simple life, a store the family continues to run. With the pressure to join the shoe business mounting, Miguel rebels to pursue his music dream on Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, but through a series of circumstances, he’s whisked to The Land of the Dead. Here, he pursues de la Cruz’s spirit and learns a number of stories about his family.
Don’t worry, I left out a NUMBER of plot twists and turns which enliven Miguel’s jaunt through the spirit world. Coco is clockwork Pixar genius in its craftsmanship. Sidekicks, secrets and indelible human emotion are all on display, not to mention tense action with real suspense. It has it all. Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) directs with the patience the story requires, not necessarily the patience the audience requires. But whenever the filmmaker trusts their instincts like that, the audience usually comes along, as was the case in the screening I attended. Also, Coco packs decidedly adult plot moments and the kids watching will no doubt rise to the material, as Pixar rises above talking down to its audience.
Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Frozen) provide some music, most notably de la Cruz’ big ballad, “Remember Me”, which has greater and greater resonance as the film rolls along. Here’s another Oscar winner to beat. Michael Giacchino provides a bouncy and effective score.
What you might take for granted nowadays, if you’re not careful, is Pixar’s outstanding animation. It’s so consistently good, it’s in danger of being underappreciated, but imagining The Land of the Dead calls for wild creativity, colors and design that demand high praise. Pixar delivers.
Directed by: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Release Date: November 21, 2017
Run Time: 109 Minutes
Distributor: Pixar Animation Studios/Walt Disney Studios