As a child of Southern California, Mexican heritage and traditions were always prominent in my life. Día de los Muertos always seemed so much cooler than Halloween, which lead to reservations as I started to see Coco progress. Thankfully all of those reservations were done away with as early as the opening prologue of the film.
“‘Coco’ is about a 12-year-old boy with big dreams,” says director Lee Unkrich but really is is so much more about family and traditions.
As I said above I’ve had reservations about this film dating back to when it was first announced. At that time, the concept intrigued me but as with all ethnocentric films I worried that it might be that one step too far and leave fans not familiar with the subject out. As we moved onto the 2017 D23 Expo Coco was the “showstopper” of the Animation panel and my concern grew even more because the grand spectacle that was made to present the key song Remember Me seemed to leave a lot of guests with more questions than answers about what Coco was. Once the early teasers started making the rounds I actually lost interest in this film, it wasn’t until I visited Disney California Adventure and saw the display that started to focus on the family more than just Miguel, his dog Dante, and lots of skeletons that I really even wanted to see this film.
Coco follows in the footsteps of Mulan and Hunchback of Notre Dame where the lead goes against family and traditions to follow his heart. Miguel, voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, has a love of music which has been banned for generations in his family since his great great grandfather left his great great grandmother and her daughter Coco to follow his heart.
By now, you’ve all seen the trailers, television commercials, or theme park previews so I don’t feel I need to give you more of the backstory but I will say don’t judge Coco by what you’ve seen. We, as a “smart society,” have reached the point where by the time a film is released seem to have seen 95% of it already and know all the major plot points and how it ends. Thankfully Coco didn’t fall into that same trap. There were some pretty surprising plot points and scenes that were so out of left field I, along with the rest of the theater, let out audible gasps.
The visuals and audio left me wanting to see it again, next time in Disney Digital 3D, and to buy an extended version of the soundtrack. Now I’m sure some of you feel the same way Miguel’s grandmother, Abuelita, about the traditional Mexican music, but the amazing score by award winning Michael Giacchino paired with such new classics as “Remember Me” from Oscar-winning team behind Walt Disney Animation Studios' Frozen. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez make this a must own for any road trip.
To summarize, Coco is a new classic that transports guests into the Disney Pixar version of the Upside Down. From the start of one of the best prologues since Beauty and the Beast to the touching “non-tag” at the end of the credits I will recommend bringing a tissue or two. When I’m asked for a favorite Disney/Pixar film I waver between Toy Story 3 and Up, but this film joins the ranks of those two and will be a must-see for everyone's family get-together when released on Thanksgiving 2017.
I give Coco 5 out of 5 stars.