Latest posts by Oliver Ledingham-Smith (see all)
- ‘Hidden Figures’ tells a remarkably unheard of true story of galactic proportions - February 7, 2019
- Avengers: Infinity War Is A Success That’s Ten Years In The Making - December 10, 2018
- Review: ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ Is, By Default, The Franchise’s Best And Bloodiest - November 29, 2018
At this point, Disney Pixar is an extremely well-oiled machine, whereby betting against them is like betting against Marvel: it would be tantamount to lunacy to even try. Yet even a juggernaut that is as great and as reliable as Pixar can sometimes miss the mark (The Good Dinosaur, for instance), and when that happens, you have to wonder if the untouchable gods aren’t as untouchable as they at first appear. And with that being said, Disney have come under quite a lot of insane and patently pointless scrutiny as of late, most notably that they only seem to circulate their stories around white folk. This, on its face, is downright ridiculous, and the best possible way that Disney could have shut up these naysayers and pretenders and idiots was to make Coco, a story based around the famous Día de Muertos, Mexico‘s holiday that spans the 31st October to the 2nd November of every year. And just to make the storyline even more magical and fantastical than that, the main protagonist of the movie, Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) gets transported to the Land of the Dead. The only way back is to get his family’s blessing, but if they’re not going to allow him to play music, then he doesn’t want it. Much like his great-great-grandfather, music is Miguel’s life. Unfortunately, his family have a history of shoemaking, after Mamá Coco’s (voiced by Ana Ofelia Murguía) mother banned music from the family after her husband walked out on her and their daughter.
Coco is a rich, vibrant story that has family at its heart, and artfully uses Día de Muertos as the backdrop for incorporating more family members than ever before. If you believed that Miguel’s life, and the Land of the Living, was bright, then you’re about to have your socks blown off for when Miguel first sees the Land of the Dead. From the ethereal glow that immediately surrounds him, to the bridges made up of orange petals, to the eclectic and neon-buzzing cityscapes that are so bright and eye-poppingly fantastic that they’ll rival Hong Kong any day of the week, the Land of the Dead is so beautiful that it makes you kind of wish that you could visit it yourself. Inhabited solely by skeletons and spirit guides (that come in all shapes and sizes, and are just as dazzlingly gorgeous as the land in which they populate), Coco‘s take on what lies on the other side is a simultaneously wonderful utopia, yet a darkly twisted portrayal on capitalism. If you’re poor and without family in life, then that’s going to continue in death. But if you’re well loved and remembered the world over whilst you’re alive, that’s going to translate into fame and fortune and – above all else – wealth, when you reach the afterlife, to the point that you will never be forgotten, and you can live out a lavish, riches-stuffed lifestyle for the rest of eternity. It’s a bit of a smack in the face for the vast majority of us who are never going to be famous millionaires.
We’re also introduced to a poor, down-on-his-luck skeleton who goes by the name Héctor (voiced by Gael García Bernal), who is trying to get over the bridge so that he can see his family. But the rule in Coco is that if your family hasn’t put your photo up, then you can’t cross the bridge. Miguel teams up with Héctor, and they make a pact: Héctor will help Miguel get to Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt), and once Miguel is back home, he will put Héctor’s photo up. But it isn’t that easy, as Héctor and Ernesto de la Cruz are polar opposites. What is great about Coco is that we’re privy to both ends of the spectrum: we get to witness what happens when someone fades away, forgotten forever, into something called the Final Death. No-one knows what happens to you, or where you go. But if you’re rich and famous, everyone wants to be by your side, to be in the same vicinity as you. If you thought that Gatsby’s parties were lavish in The Great Gatsby, then wait until you see what Ernesto de la Cruz puts on. These telling scenarios are presented to us not as story beats, but more as background scenes; Coco is all about Miguel and the journey he goes on. But he must hurry, because if he doesn’t have his great-great-grandfather’s blessing before sunrise, then he’s going to be stuck in the Land of the Dead forever.
Coco isn’t one of those films where it splits the narrative so that it’s 50/50 in regards to whether we see the Land of the Living or the Land of the Dead; it’s more like 20/80, respectively speaking. We do need some backstory, but we’re given just enough so that when the emotional gut-punches come, and the proverbial rug is artistically yanked brutally out from beneath your feet, then at least it’s worth your while. The theme of family is always an important one, and while Coco does get given the Disney Pixar treatment – by that I mean it goes through all the motions in familiar ways – it is never diminished because of the fact. If anything, it is elevated, and is all the better for it. This movie also won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film, which is really no surprise in the slightest given the visuals. It does feel as if Disney Pixar decided to go all out (even more so than they usually do) when making this movie, and the results are spectacular. Furthermore, the story is so good that no matter how many times you watch it, you’re going to be reaching for the tissues, because there won’t be a dry eye anywhere. That is how powerful Coco is, and all the twists and turns that the movie takes on Miguel’s journey are woven together and will leave you an emotional wreck. Coco is vibrant, brilliant, amazing storytelling at its peak, and shows that the Mouse House still has the ability to make you weep like a child.
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