‘Coco’ is the sprightly story of a young boy who wants to be a singer and finds himself in the land of the dead interacting to skeletons. Directed by Lee Unkrich (‘ Toy Story 3 ‘) and seasoned Pixar animator Adrian Molina, relying extensively on Mexican mythology and conventional styles, she has catchy music, a nuanced yet simple storyline, and a touch of home humor and media sat down. Most of the time, the movie is a knock-about slapstick comedy with a ‘Back to the Future’ look, scripting great action scenes and delivering new plot details to viewers every few minutes, but of course, being a Pixar picture, ‘Coco’ always builds up emotionally disturbing moments, so stealthily that you might be surprised to find yourself wiping away a tear even though the studio was using the sneak-attack playbook for decades.
The protagonist of the movie, twelve-year-old Miguel Riviera (Anthony Gonzalez’s voice), lives in Santa Cecilia’s small town. He is a good-hearted boy who loves to play guitar and idolizes Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), the most popular singer-songwriter of the 1920s and 30s, who was killed when a massive church bell fell on his head. Yet Miguel has to hunt in secrecy since his community has forbidden his representatives from playing music after Miguel’s great-grandfather left, abandoning his loved ones to fulfill his stardom ambitions selfishly. At least that’s the official story passed down through the generations; it’s going to be challenged as the film unfolds, not through a traditional detective story (although ‘Coco’ has a mystery element), but through an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ journey to the Land of the Dead that the hero accesses through his ancestors ‘ tomb. Family and legacy as expressed through storytelling and song: this is the deeper concern of ‘Coco.’ One of the most fascinating things about the film is how it builds its plot around Miguel’s family members, living and dead, as they struggle to determine Miguel’s great-grandfather’s official narrative and what his disappearance from the narrative meant for the extended clan. The title character is the grandmother of the protagonist (Renee Victor), traumatized by the loss of her husband. She has become an almost silent presence in her old age, sitting in the corner and looking blankly forward, as if hypnotized in her mind by a sweet, old film that is perpetually unreeling. The machinations that bring Miguel to the other side are too complicated to explain in a review, though as you watch the movie, they are understandable. It’s enough to say that Miguel gets there, teams up with a melancholy goofball called Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) and has to pose as one of the dead with the help of skeletal facepaint, but that (like Marty McFly returning to the 1950s to make sure that his mom ends up with his dad in ‘Future’) the longer Miguel stays on the other side, the more likely he will actually end up dead.
I’m reluctant to describe the plot of the film in too much detail because, while every twist seems obvious in retrospect, the script of Molina and Matthew Aldrich frames each one in such a way that it seems delightful and inevitable. Many are conveyed through a fake photograph of the relatives that Miguel takes to the Land of the Dead with him. The photo deployment is a great example of how to tell a story with a picture through photographs, or more accurately. Someone’s face has been ripped out; there is a guitar which later proves to be important, and there are many cases in which graphical data has been hidden from Miguel (and us) so that when the time is right it can be exposed or restored, completing and fixing an unfinished or skewed picture, and ‘picture.’ What’s fresh, however, is the film’s tone and outlook.
A month before it opened in the USA, ‘Coco’ opened in Mexico and is already the highest grossing film of all time. This suggests a non-American conception of religion and culture — not in a kind of entertainment or ‘thinking study,’ but as if it were merely the latest result of an imaginary Disney Mexican world that has persisted for as long as the other. Like most Pixar productions, this one is full of tributes to film history in general and the history of animation in particular. This film is great for any general audience as it contains a beautiful story line of emotion and family.