Coco Review – Pixar Still At The Top Of Their Game

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28 Jan 18

It’s not often the lights go up in a cinema and everyone around me is crying. ‘Coco’ didn’t seem like a ‘Notebook’ or ‘Titanic’ formulaic “heart-string pulling” piece when you reflect upon the story. However, what Unkrich has done with this film has delivered a type of education about family, heritage and death that is interwoven with beautiful imagery and sweet storytelling.

The idea was conceptualised in 2010, but didn’t go into production until 2016, and has been bubbling around social networks and entertainment websites for many months saying it would be a challenger to ‘Up’ for emotional weighting. The cast may not be awash with A-list Hollywood names, but strikes a balance with authenticity by employing a cast of Central and South American performers including Gael Garcia Bernal and Alanna Ubach.

The story follows 12-year-old aspiring musician Miguel, who wants to understand more about his heritage and break-free from his anti-music family. When he believes he has figured out the identity of his great-great-grandfather he attempts to reconnect with this passion during the Day of The Dead festival. Miguel is taken on a journey to Land of the Dead where he learns more about his family and the formidable grandmother Imelda tries to protect him from being trapped there. The story takes a beautiful musical path with incredible visuals and stunning characterisations that help Miguel make discoveries that will eventually help him reconnect with the meaning behind the festival.

The story, just like with many Pixar films, has such a strong message and as an adult, I felt it perfectly helped embed understanding about knowing where you came from and being true to yourself. The tragic, yet entirely surprising, twist in the plot was perfectly held back until the best moment in the film and I commend Unkrich for this. This is one review I have really held back from offering spoilers about because I urge you to go an see it and learn more about it for yourself.

The creation of the Land of the Dead is a masterpiece and interwoven with skull imagery, colour and layers upon layers of intricate detail that clearly makes the theme of death and the afterlife digestible and un-scary for the young audience. The songs and music are fitting and suitable to the story, and with Giacchino scoring and the writers from ‘Frozen’ penning the tracks, there is clearly a reason why this film is a front-contender for the Oscar in March.

I am, once again, amazed that Disney and Disney Pixar still manage to bring stories that are just not centralised to a young audience; just like ‘Zootropolis’, ‘Finding Dory’ and ‘Inside Out’ before this, I have become transfixed by their storytelling and place ‘Coco’ up amongst these as powerful and memorable releases. My only two frustrations are actually to do with two characters – firstly ‘sidekick’ Dante, a stray street dog doesn’t truly send out a message that I am comfortable with endorsing and it doesn’t quite make sense about why he is able to follow Miguel. Secondly, the use of Frida Kahlo as a character is just confusing, even to me as an adult member of the audience and struggled with this kink in the narrative.

Pixar shows other animated studios why they are still at the top of their game: entertainment and fine storytelling make Coco stand out in the crowd.