COCO Review: 9 out of 10 (Rich and Rewarding)
COCO is the latest film from Disney's Pixar Studios and is a musical adventure full of music and (ironically) life. Based on the Mexican holiday of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead), the film has a rich story to tell with an absolutely stunning palette. But looking past the visuals, it is the affecting story of family as it addresses culture, love, and death that is so rewarding to experience.
Despite his family's baffling generations-old ban on any type of music, 12-year-old Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Cruz is a singer-songwriter whose tragic death has skyrocketed him to the status of legend. Desperate to prove his talent and pursue his love of music despite his family's wishes, Miguel follows a strange series of events that lands him in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead. The only way for Miguel to return to the land of the living is to receive a blessing from his past ancestors, and unlock the mystery for why they hate music as they do. Along the way, he meets the charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on a journey to discover the real story behind Miguel's family history.
COCO is a truly vibrant tale that is warm and whimsical. This is easily one of the most original stories that Pixar has told in years, embracing the rich Mexican culture and honoring its mythos with fully realized characters and a thoughtful narrative with depth and emotion. The film takes some unexpected (but welcome) turns, always punctuating it with beautiful songs and stunning visuals. Miguel is instantly loveable as a boy whose family mystery is compelling and interesting. As he encounters his own family in the Land of the Dead, Miguel discovers new appreciation for his family and his heritage. COCO is a movie that offers some great lessons on death and life that any child or adult can embrace.
***Unfortunately for viewers, they must endure the Not-So-Short OLAF'S FROZEN ADVENTURE at the front of this movie. With a run time of 21 minutes, it feels far longer. Initially billed as a TV special, this isn't even direct to video quality. After COCO's release in Mexico all cinemas removed it from the screenings with apologies. Yes, it is that awful. With a stupid story that leverages holiday traditions as the penultimate joy, It has Anna and Elsa both throwing petty tantrums because townspeople won't join them for *their* party. Kristoff sings a song about fungus (yes you read that right) and Olaf tests the annoyance levels of the audience--one that is reached by the 5 minute mark. When a key part of the story is the imminent danger that wolves present to a snowman, the writers assume that the audience is as dumb as Olaf. This might have been endurable if it had been 5-8 minutes, but at nearly half an hour it isn't something that can be written off as just a fluff piece. If this is any indication of what is in store for audiences with FROZEN 2, I would encourage audiences to put that movie on ice permanently. My score for OLAF'S FROZEN ADVENTURE:1 out of 10...the 1 is for the return of the sauna guy and his family.