Not that this hasn’t been making its rounds in the theaters, but let’s face it, it’s sad that the Frozen short is getting the greatest amount of attention. Jeez, I hate Olaf.
Disney and Pixar. What can you say? Individually, they’re amazing. Together, who knows what kind of magic is in store for us? Well… okay, fine, Pixar is owned by Disney (what isn’t these days?), but there’s a lot of Pixar films that are considered “Pixar’s films” more than Disney’s and Pixar’s. It’s strange to see that mix and mash. Or maybe I’m just weird. Eh, who cares? DISNEY AND PIXAR!!! WOOO!!!
The story looks like it’s about a Hispanic boy who wants to know more about his father, a famous guitar player, and… honestly, it’s Thanksgiving as I’m writing this, I’ve had two or three mimosas, I’m a lightweight, all I can remember is that this movie looks eerily similar to the movie THE BOOK OF LIFE (2014), which I really liked. I liked the wooden marionette puppet look, but just because something looks and seems similar, doesn’t mean there aren’t differences. Besides, it’s Disney and Pixar. They do great work, so let’s judge it for what it is, not what it looks like.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Anthony Gonzalez (known for unknown stuff and shorts) and Gael García Bernal (DESIERTO , BABEL , AMORES PERROS , and the upcoming Zorro reboot, Z, no release date announced). In support, we have Benjamin Bratt (DOCTOR STRANGE , MISS CONGENIALITY , and TV show LAW & ORDER [1990 – 2010]), Grabiel Inglesia (THE STAR , THE BOOK OF LIFE , MAGIC MIKE , and the upcoming FERDINAND ), and legendaries Edward James Olmos (BLADE RUNNER 2049 , SELENA , NAUSICAÄ OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND , TV show BATTLESTAR GALACTICA [2004 – 2009], and the upcoming THE PREDATOR ), Cheech Marin (CARS 3 , CARS , THE LION KING , and GHOSTBUSTERS II ), and John Ratzenberger (CARS 3, RATATOUILLE , THAT DARN CAT , and the upcoming INCREDIBLES 2 ).
Now for the crew. Co-directing, we have Lee Unkrich (TOY STORY 3 , FINDING NEMO , and TOY STORY 2 ) and co-writer Adrian Molina (directorial debut; congrats, sir, but has contributed to writing THE GOOD DINOSAUR ). Molina’s partner-in-pen is Matthew Aldrich, attached to the upcoming SPINNING MAN (2018). Composing the score is Michael Giacchino, known for WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017), JOHN CARTER (2012), RATATOUILLE, and upcoming films INCREDIBLES 2 and JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM (2018). Finally, co-cinematographers, both making their debuts as such, are Matt Aspbury and Danielle Feinberg.
Overall, I’m sure I’ll like it, but I don’t think I’m going in with the highest expectations. We’ll see.
This is my honest opinion of: COCO
Set close to Día de los Muertos, “The Day of the Dead.” The story follows Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a Hispanic boy hailing from a long line of shoe makers with a bit of a dark history. A long time ago, Miguel’s great great grandfather was a musician who wanted to play for the world instead of be with his wife and daughter, Coco. As a result, everyone in the family hates music and utterly refuses its existence in the house, with the notable exception of Miguel, who loves music and wants to enter the local music competition to prove his skills with the guitar. But after his family vehemently objects, destroying his handmade guitar, Miguel tries to steal the guitar of legendary musician and actor, Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt), who “coincidentally” has a similar history to his great great grandfather. But the guitar has magical properties and Miguel accidentally finds himself whisked away to the invisible land of the dead, where he soon meets his skeletal ancestors. But Miguel doesn’t want to return to the land of the living without the blessing of his great great grandfather, Ernesto, to return to the living so he can pursue his dream of being a musician, despite his family’s denial of it, both the living and dead.
While I don’t agree with the 9.1/10 that IMDb has given it (as of 11/24/2017), it’s still a good movie, even great at times, but not all the way through.
One of my biggest problems with the movie is Miguel’s family. Already, the set-up of “something bad happened once upon a time, so now that bad thing is forbidden among the characters of the story” is an over-done cliché that nobody likes, but I can’t stand how mean-spirited Miguel’s family is. Okay, so a man chose to build himself a career instead of being with his family. Deadbeat dads aren’t exactly uncommon. Tragic and possibly unforgivable, to be sure, but how in blazes did this generational hatred for music last so long? Coco never seemed opposed to music, so how did Miguel’s grandmother, his parents, his aunt and uncles, how are all of them so accepting of this blind hatred? Literally not one person is sympathetic, supportive, or understanding of Miguel? Not even in a peripheral sense? Especially since everyone involved wasn’t even alive when his great great grandfather abandoned his family, I just don’t see something like this lasting for as long as it does. Maybe it’d make more sense if every generation, someone in the family wanted to be a musician and they all abandoned their families, then we’d have some understandable drama. But it was something that happened once… a long time ago. Like, probably more than 100 years ago. You see the problem here? The set-up just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. So it didn’t come as a surprise to me when Miguel rejected his family after his guitar was destroyed. They’re highly unreasonable and not very likable.
Smaller problems include some contrivances, like Miguel sporadically telling his family’s life-story to a stranger that he’s supposed to be shining the shoes of. Dante the dog was mostly annoying. Not Olaf annoying, but pretty annoying. And some moments seem a little too rushed. Like the movie was trying to get through its scene faster instead of letting the emotions sink in for the characters. It doesn’t happen often, granted, but it’s still present.
Granted, any additional problems that I have are, objectively speaking, pretty small compared to the unlikable family. Having said that, there’s a few annoyances and some predictability to the movie that I couldn’t help but notice. Like, while I may not have predicted that Hector (voiced by Gael García Bernal) was really Miguel’s great great grandfather, but I called it pretty early on that Ernesto wasn’t either. And the movie tries SO HARD to make this a twist. Hector’s face ripped out of the picture, someone remarking how Ernesto is his family, but no one corrects him, just saying “never mention that man’s name again,” it all gets pretty forced.
And there’s the formulaic tropes that Disney and Pixar have been pretty fond of lately that I’m actually a little tired of seeing. First up, we have that thing where the budding traveling pair, Miguel and Hector, have an argument at the end of the second act, but you know they’re going to reunite. It’s not as forced or random as when MOANA (2016) did it with Moana and Maui, but it’s still in that ball park.
Also, the surprise villain. Oh jeez, do I hate it when movies do this, especially when it’s not really properly built up. Why did this story need a bad guy anyway? Isn’t the struggle of the lack of familial support kind of the main thing this movie was focusing on? And while I won’t deny that I liked how dark it went that Ernesto straight up murdered Hector for his music, as he never was able to write his own, I feel like there was a better way to spin this story. Wouldn’t it be a little more interesting if Hector really did die from food poisoning and Ernesto really was trying to keep his old friend’s memory alive, but because he was such a hero and legend in his time that he was never honest with the public, taking credit for music that wasn’t his own, he simply never acknowledged Hector? I feel like this could have fed more into even a theme of the price of following your dreams, giving Miguel a moment of pause if being a musician really is right for him, fearing that the fame could change him like it did Ernesto. I think that would have been more complex than simply, oh, he murdered him. It’s too easy, think.
And that final song and dance number between Ernesto and Imelda (Alanna Ubach) is pure padding. Instead of just trying to out Ernesto as a fraud to his fans, they sing and dance with him and not trying very hard to get that photo away from him and back to Miguel’s hands.
But as much as I can rag on the elements that bothered me, I can’t deny what this movie does unbelievably well.
First and foremost, this might be one of the best-looking Disney-Pixar films to date. I am not kidding. This trumps FROZEN (2013), for crying out loud. The reveal of the land of the dead, the sheer size and scope of it, the layers, upon layers of animated beauty are truly a wonder to behold. The world of the dead is so lively, bustling with people with their comings and goings. It’s something you can easily freeze-frame and spend hours just gushing over the impossible detail the animators put in to it. But it’s not even just the land of the dead. This fictional Hispanic city is gorgeous to look at with its own personality to bring. The characters look great. Wonderful expressions, mixed with great voice-talent, it’s a whole package. And I’m telling you, your eyes are going to melt with awe when you look at Pepita, the Alebrije, which is this giant lion-dragon thing surrounded in bright neon colors that looks utterly phenomenal. There is no frame in this movie that isn’t pure beauty.
The music is great as well. Being someone who works in a restaurant with a kitchen staff mainly comprised of Hispanic cooks, I’m usually within earshot of some of that type of music. But as lively and fun as that is, nothing compares to the gorgeous tunes you’ll be listening in this film. When you get the chance, check out the soundtrack. Easily something that anyone can add to their personal playlists. Everyone’s a great singer, especially Gonzalez.
I even enjoy some of the ideas the movie presents as well. Like, apparently, there is a death or the dead. In the land of the dead, their entire existence is strictly based on their pictures being put up on the Día de los Muertos, and they continue to live on, so long as the succeeding families remember them through stories passed down from generation to generation. But if the succeeding families forget the dead, then even they fade out of existence, called “The Final Death,” which is chilling to think about. This factors in great with Hector and his desperation for Miguel to take his photo and put it up in the land of the living because Coco, his daughter, is almost ready to pass on herself and no one remembers Hector’s face, so he’s dangerously close to the Final Death. You really understand his motivations and his emotions when Miguel proves to be difficult, albeit for good reasons on all sides.
I know there’s not a lot of positives to rave about, but they’re so consistent throughout the film that they hold up the movie extraordinarily well and overcome many of the problems I have. Ocularly, phonetically, this movie is magic of the highest caliber. Sure, I had problems with the set-up, some of the characters, and certainly had my issues with the final act, but this movie has way too much going for it that I can’t help but say that I do highly recommend it. This could even be one of those movies to watch around the time of Día de los Muertos, which goes from Halloween until November 2. If you’re a fan of Disney and Pixar, then you’ll definitely get your moneys worth. Seize your moment and see this brilliant and beautiful film.
My honest rating for COCO: 4/5