review by rebecca wynne-walsh
According to the trusty trivia section on IMdB, Disney-Pixar’s latest offering, Coco contains themes that are usually banned by Chinese film sensors but, upon seeing the film, the Chinese censor board members were so incredibly touched that they made a rather heartfelt exception and allowed the film to be screened. This anecdote, for want of a better phrase, gets to the heart of the issue, and heart is what Coco is all about.
Coco presents one of the rare occasions where I avidly encourage any potential viewers to believe the hype. Many reviewers have called this not only the best Disney-Pixar movie since 2015’s Inside Out but the best children’s movie since that same release, this high praise indeed but it is well deserved. With fares such as The Emoji Movie and the Olaf’s Frozen Adventure have set a fairly low standard for recent movie animation output Coco did not have to reach very high in order to surpass its immediate predecessors. Coco does not rest on its laurels of quality, its eagerness to emote and inspire keeps you engaged throughout. While Coco is no doubt a big fish in a small pond quality-wise this should not deter from its merit. Ultimately this is a film that is well thought out, beautifully crafted and performed to perfection. This film sees a welcome return to the highs of Disney-Pixar’s colourful past.
Colour itself is an important aspect of any animated motion picture. The importance of colour has never been more prevalent than in this, a film inspired by the holiday Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). Anyone familiar with the festival will recall a multiplicity of food, flowers, fluorescent colour patterns and ubiquitous calaveras - commonly known as sugar skulls. This film indulges in the wide creative scope these traditional colours and images offer but never does indulgence stray into excess. The awe-inspiring visuals manage to thrill without distracting from the narrative, they rather encourage it.
Another key component of this film is its music. The score feels authentic and true to its Mexican heritage without straining that inspiration. The melodic tingle of Mexican guitar instrumentals permeate the soundscape to create a totally enveloping musical as well as visual world. The songs are engaging and entertaining, viewers are sure to leave this film still tapping their toes and humming along to such charming numbers as “Un Poco Loco”, “The World Es Mi Familia” and of course, “Remember Me”. As the titles of these songs suggest, there is a welcome and seamless incorporation of Spanish language into the script. This adds another layer of authenticity into a film that revels in its self-inscribed national identity rather than simply appropriating it or picking and choosing aesthetically pleasing elements.
All these technical elements aside, the power of Coco is ultimately rooted in emotional depth. This is a film that sets out to tug the heart-strings of its viewers, it achieves this and beyond with as much dexterity as its plucky protagonist Miguel playing his guitar. Coco is an undoubted crowd pleaser with moments that will equally make you laugh out loud and then wipe away a genuine tear. It is family film true and true, holding something to entertain surprise and enamour viewers of all ages, ensuring audiences leave elated with the exuberance and emotional satisfaction that has been steadily cultivated throughout.