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Review: “Coco” – Music Is Life

Disney Pixar Coco

Coco Disney PixarAfter 6 years and more awards that you can fit in a guitar case, Disney/Pixar’s Coco finally lands on Blu-ray/DVD. Should you buy it? Do you like good moves? Do you like Pixar movies? Do you like good Pixar movies? Ok, self-answering question, but yes, yes you should buy this. Whatever teething troubles Coco had along the way are not visible because it is a great movie. Both visually and story-wise, this is Pixar at it’s best.

We first meet our main character, Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), as he gives us a brief look at his family’s history. His great-great-grandfather disappeared to pursue a career in music, leaving behind Miguel’s great-great-grandmother Imelda and great-grandmother Coco. As a result, the entire Rivera family hates music. And musicians. And instruments. And anything that doesn’t have to do with the family shoe business, which was the trade Imelda taught herself to survive without her husband. Unfortunately for Miguel, he couldn’t care less about shoes. He idolizes Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a musician and actor for the golden age of Mexican cinema who was killed in a freak stage accident years and years ago. Given his family’s distaste for anything musical, especially from his Abuelita (Renee Victor), he had to hide his true passion as best he can.

Disney Pixar CocoHowever, discovering a secret about his great-great-grandfather pushes him to reveal his passion to his family, which has disastrous results on Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead when the living celebrate the memories of the departed while, apparently, the spirits of the departed can cross over into the world to visit their families. Miguel eventually finds himself a living boy in the land of the dead, and the only way to get back to the land of the living requires the blessing of a family member. Unfortunately, the Rivera family in the afterlife is ruled over by Mama Imelda herself (Alanna Ubach), who won’t give her blessing until Miguel is willing to give up music forever. Fortunately, they may not be the only family Miguel has around, and a friendly stranger named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) may be the key Miguel needs to get that blessing, with a little unexpected help from a stray Xoloitzcuintli dog that Miguel has named Dante. Hector needs Miguel just as much as Miguel needs him though, as Hector is almost out of time. Once no one remembers you in the land of the living, you disappear from the land of the dead, and Hector is running out of family fast.

Is the story familiar? Maybe a little. This certainly isn’t the first Dia de los Muertos movie, but Pixar always finds a way to make everything their own. Miguel is probably a bit of a brat when we first meet him, but it’s fully understandable given how dour the rest of his family is and how little they care about what he really wants in life. Shoe makers are shoe makers and always will be shoe makers alive or dead, so they say, and Miguel’s musical desires don’t really sit very well with any of them. Is that a bit contrived? Well yes, but there wouldn’t be a story any other way. The writer do pay it off marvelously, especially once Ernesto de la Cruz becomes a more important character.

Disney Pixar CocoI know every time a new Pixar film comes out, we always say, “Best looking Pixar film ever!!!” but it’s always true. I have no idea how they did it, but the animators pulled off an absolute stunner. Between the choices in camera angles, the visual textures and the sheer color saturation, Coco is absolutely gorgeous. The music is absolutely fantastic as well. The Oscar for Best Original Song is well deserved. Coco may not be a musical per se, but it almost functions as one and is all the better for it.

The Blu-ray set comes loaded with a ton of extras. There is a full-length commentary from co-directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina and producer Darla Anderson that is a must-listen for anyone interested in the production process. There is also a large set of deleted animatic scenes, mostly with scratch vocals and one with a full song back ground as well, along with a number of cast interviews and other such goodies. One slight warning about the set, there are actually three discs in it, and two are directly stacked on top of each other, so you have to be careful pulling them out. Otherwise it is a fantastic set and well worth picking up.