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Monday, December 4, 2017

Coco

Yeah, I know I'm late with this but after some less than effusive reviews of late, I figure it's only right to highlight some films that are actually worth your time. No promises, but hopefully this will only be the first of these this week. I'll do my best to keep these short to try and make sure that happens...


Before I get onto the business of praising this film to, well, the Land of the Dead, in this case, a word or two about that accompanying Frozen "short" that has been the cause of so much controversy. The backlash against it has been so bad that Disney will be pulling it from all prints of Coco - at least in the US - from this coming Friday. And rightly so. It's very bad, it's very long, it doesn't fit at all with the main feature and it took the place of one of those usually wonderful Pixar shorts that we normally get with most of their movies. It's total rubbish and their plans to use it to advertise the upcoming Frozen 2 has clearly backfired badly. I liked Frozen but I don't think it needs a sequel and this highly irritating "special" does little to get my hopes up.

Enough of that, though. Soon it won't be a problem and it has already taken enough time from the delights at hand...

It's probably damning it with faint praise to say that Coco is the best Pixar film since Inside Out but how about calling it one of the best Pixar movies to date? Yup. It really is that good.

The plot follows much the same general quest structure of most Pixar movies so there's nothing exactly original about this story about a young boy who has a fight with his family because they don't understand him and ends up on an epic adventure to get home while learning some important life-lessons along the way. Like all the best Pixar films, what really matters is the details. The Mexican Day of the Dead has been used in animation before - and to particularly brilliant effect in the '90s PC game, Grim Fandango - but it is used spectacularly here; both in terms of creating some stunningly beautiful visuals as a backdrop to our hero's adventure and as a way to explore the film's central themes of family, death and remembrance.

It's probably not quite as profound as something like Inside Out's central metaphor about growing up but it's substantial stuff nonetheless - especially for something that is ostensibly a children's film. Besides, as an adventure film, Coco actually outdoes Inside Out. It's also all backed up by that trademark Pixar emotional wallop and even if it isn't as intense as the first ten minutes as Up, it's much more consistent with the film becoming more and more resonant with each passing act.

Its opening moments suggest a charming, fun little movie with a plucky lead and some peerless animation and art design but by the time its done it would have broken your heart and raised your spirits a half dozen times apiece. Co-writer and co-director (with Adrian Molina), Lee Unkrich has been in the (joint) driver's seat for some of Pixar's most emotional films, including Monsters Inc and, oh yes, both Toy Story sequels so it's hardly surprising that Coco is as moving as it is but there's still something awe-inspiring about this level of pure, unfettered movie magic.

It's also worth mentioning that along with the wonderful cast of characters, played by some top-notch, all Latino cast; the expert (if familiar) storytelling; the perfect animation and design and its sheer amount of heart, wit, soul and movie magic, the film does some truly admirable work with its music. Music is right at the heart of the film and special attention is clearly given to making sure that the score is on point, the original songs are good to great and the musicianship of the film's many musically-inclined characters come across as authentic as possible. I can do little more than pluck out a few notes on my guitar but I am a music fan and it did feel like the characters in the film were making the music we hear. For a short but more in-depth look at the music in the film, check out TJR's excellent YouTube review.   

Coco isn't the only must-see family movie this festive season (more on that later in the week, hopefully) but make absolutely no mistake: it is an absolute must see.


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