Monday, April 09, 2018

Coco: An Amazing Animated Film Full of Character and Color

Movie Review: Coco (2017)
Version: Library Borrow

Coco wasn't what we were expecting. First, Coco isn't the main character of the film, that's Miguel. Second, Coco isn't about skeletons, they're incidental to the main focus of the story. Contrary to our expectations, Coco is a wonderfully imaginative exploration of the importance of family and remembering our past, told through the richness of Mexican culture.

As we begin this amazing emotional journey, young Miguel finds himself in conflict with his family in preparation for the Dia de la Muerta (Day of the Dead), the traditional festival for remembering family who have passed away. Their home is decorated with pictures of the dead family members surrounded by flowers and candles and food, as is the town, which is preparing for a festival full of celebration including a musical competition. Only, Miguel's family has banned music. And as Miguel expresses his desire to compete, everyone tries to put a stop to it, quick. After his grandmother splinters his homemade guitar, Miguel seeks to "borrow" the guitar displayed at the town's shrine to the greatest writer and singer of music of all time, Ernesto de la Cruz. As Miguel strums the strings, he is transported to the Land of the Dead, and his adventure begins.

Miguel first encounters his past relatives, ones whose photos he saw displayed at home. He knows them on sight despite their being skeletons, and they know him. He can only return home with their blessing, but they will only give him their blessing if he consents to never engage in music, and there is his conflict, because he has always admired Ernesto de la Cruz and wants to make music like him. So he seeks out de la Cruz for his blessing. On the way, he meets up with Héctor, whom he overhears saying has a personal acquaintance with de la Cruz, and the search is on. But things turn out not to be as they appear. And time isn't on Miguel's side, because he has to return to the Land of the Living before sunrise or he must remain in the Land of the Dead for all time. It's in his search for de la Cruz that he learns that family is far more important than music and that his family learns that music may be far more important than old betrayals.

Usually I will go into a list of the voice actors who play the characters, but they are much less important to this film than is the animation to bringing life to this story. I don't want to downplay the artistry of the actors -- the producers made it clear they wanted to use authentic Mexican actors for these parts. But the point is, what breathes authenticity into the characters and the story are the pictures, the colors, the architecture, and the symbols, all brought to life through the animation. And it is a vivid display, particularly in the Land of the Dead -- with such intricate detail and such amazing clarity. Too, the character art is so articulate. Mamá Coco, wrinkled with age, is incredibly detailed!

My daughter didn't want to see Coco in the theater because of all the skeletons, but seeing it on DVD, she loved the film. Our whole family loved it. The themes, the animation, the colors, and the characters make this a wonderful family film and an exciting adventure everyone can enjoy.

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