MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina. Animated Feature
Miguel (voice by Anthony Gonzalez) is a twelve-year-old boy who loves his family and helps them with their shoe shop in his Mexican village. But secretly Miguel longs to be a great musician like Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a singer-songwriter from the 1920s and ’30s. But ever since Miguel’s great-great-grandfather abandoned the family to pursue a musical career, no one is allowed to play music. This creates a problem for the boy when the town is holding a talent show as part of their annual celebration of “Día de los Muertos” (The Day of the Dead). When Miguel’s guitar is destroyed, he breaks into the tomb of de la Cruz and steals his instrument, only to be whisked with his Xolo dog Dante into the parallel Land of the Dead. He makes friends with the skeletal trickster Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) and paints his own face to blend in. As fortune would have it, Miguel will get to meet his idol – Ernesto de la Cruz is a big deal in the afterlife, able to fill large stadiums with adoring fans. But every moment away from his family creates the possibility that Miguel will be forgotten, with dire consequences.
Coco is Pixar Animation’s tribute to Mexican culture, filled with some of the most beautiful visual images ever created for an animated film. Colors pop off the screen and there is an amazing assortment of fantastical creatures. The music is a mix of traditional folk music and original tunes, including the (fortunately) memorable song “Remember Me” written by the team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez (who composed the songs for Frozen). The all-Latino cast is exceptional and young Anthony Gonzalez (who does his own singing) has talent to spare.
There is so much that is good about Coco (and I do highly recommend the film), it is with some trepidation that I must admit that the storyline meanders between moments of confusion, generic plot twists, and laugh-out-loud humor. The film ties everything up fairly well in its second half, but the first hour of this long film is a big of a slog. It’s too bad that it takes so long for the Coco to warm up, because younger children will get bored along the way.
To make matters worse, Disney decided to run a mediocre 22-minute featurette, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (originally made as a TV Christmas special) before the film. Assuming 20 minutes of trailers before that, your kids will have been in the theater for 45 minutes before the 109-minute Coco begins. That’s 2½ hours at the movies, parents!
Coco reminds us why we hold memorial services for the family members that we love and how we can approach death and immortality with joyful tears and music. For people of faith, that is a very good thing, indeed.
Four halos: Although the plot is the weakest link, this film remains a strong work of art that celebrates music, culture, family and remembrance.
Two pitchforks: Although it is done rather tastefully, a murder eventually finds its way into the plot.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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