Sunday, November 26, 2017

Coco - Movie Review

The Movie: Coco

The Directors: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

The Cast:  Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renée Victor, Edward James Olmos, John Ratzenberger

The Story: Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family's ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.

The Review:
Coco is an absolute dream come true. Seeing Mexican culture brought to life on screen in such a beautiful and vibrant way is something I never thought I would see. Being half Mexican and growing up very American, if you will, I have never fully appreciated my heritage and most of the exposure I have had to it has been in the form of Hollywood stereotypes. Always the bad guy wearing the sombrero in western films or always the low rider driving gang banger. Or always Michael Pena.

While recent movies by Mexican film makers like Alejandro González Iñárritu and Alfonso Cuarón have opened the door for representation, this is the first movie that authentically puts the history and culture of Mexico on the screen that is enjoyable for any person of any age to watch and learn from and I can't tell you how important that is to have in the world.

Watching Mexican families at the theater all dressed up in fancy outfits and treating this movie like a special event was almost as emotionally satisfying as watching the movie itself. Watching how enthusiastic they were about being able to spend a couple hours immersed in the comfort of their own culture is something I am very thankful to have witnessed.

Pixar has always been good at telling stories that are as entertaining as they are emotionally affecting and Lee Unkrich has been at the front of that movement over the years. Teaming with Mexican American Adrian Molina, the duo did tons of research and went deep into the culture to make sure every detail was in place from the bold use of colors to the dynamics of multi-generational family life. Everything is on display in vivid detail and in ways that just feel right.

A great moment for me was of Miguel sitting at the dinner table and a relative refusing to take no for an answer after she offered a second helping of tamales and the young boy ended up with way more than he could ever eat. Showing and sharing love through food is a primary characteristic of Mexican families and a little detail like that, even when played for humor, was just one of so many well thought out moments.

Another important detail on why this film works so well is how the cast is filled with Mexican actors from the young Anthony Gonzalez in the lead role as Miguel to talented veterans like Gael García Bernal and Edward James Olmos. Of course no Pixar movie would be complete without their good luck charm Mr. John Ratzenberger so make sure to listen close as you never know when or where he will pop up.

Now let's talk for a just a moment about how this movie looks. Ever since Pixar began making short films, they have been leading the way for what is possible when it comes to putting computer animated images on a movie screen. Coco, with it's amazing use of colors, gigantic backdrops, and uniquely stylized characters is the best work they have done sine the eye popping ocean of animation they flooded screens with on Finding Nemo. Seriously, this movie is absolutely beautiful and every frame is worthy of being plastered on someone's wall or desktop background.

The Verdict:
Coco is easily one of Pixar's best movies to date and and one of the best movies of the year. Thank you Pixar for making this movie, it means so much to so many people. Oh, and don't forget to bring along some tissue, you're going to need it.

I have not watched the movie in 3D although I would like to. Pixar always does great work with 3D and I hear this movie looks fantastic with the added feature.

If you are curious about Olaf's Frozen Adventure, the short film that plays before Coco, it is actually really fun although it does run a bit long at over 20 minutes. The kid sitting next to me actually told his dad that it was okay but way too long. With pre-show ads, trailers, and the short all included, the feature film doesn't actually start until about 40 minutes after the scheduled time so be prepared for that.

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