“Coco” is the sprightly story of a young boy who wants to be a musician and somehow finds himself communing with talking skeletons in the land of the dead. Directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”) and veteran Pixar animator Adrian Molina, \
and drawing heavily on Mexican folklore and traditional designs, it has catchy music, a complex but comprehensible plot, and bits of domestic comedy and media satire.
Most of the time the movie is a knockabout slapstick comedy with a “Back to the Future”
feeling, staging grand action sequences and feeding audiences new plot information every few minutes, but of course, being a Pixar film,
“Coco” is also building toward emotionally overwhelming moments, so stealthily that you may be surprised to find yourself wiping away a tear even though the studio has been using the sneak-attack playbook for decades.
The film’s hero, twelve-year old Miguel Riviera (voice by Anthony Gonzalez), lives in the small town of Santa Cecilia.
He’s a goodhearted child who loves to play guitar and idolizes the greatest popular singer-songwriter of the 1920s and ’30s,
Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt),
who was killed when a huge church bell fell on his head.
But Miguel has to busk in secret because his family has banned its members from performing
music ever since Miguel’s great-great-grandfather left, abandoning his loved
ones to selfishly pursue his dreams of stardom.
Family and legacy as expressed through storytelling and song: this is the deeper preoccupation of “Coco.”
One of the most fascinating things about the movie is the way it builds its plot around members of Miguel’s family, living and dead,
as they battle to determine the official narrative of
Miguel’s great-great grandfather and what his disappearance from the narrative
meant for the extended clan.
I’m reluctant to describe the film’s plot in too much detail because,
even though every twist seems obvious in retrospect, Molina and Matthew Aldrich’s script frames each one so that seems delightful and inevitable.
Many of them are conveyed through a stolen family photograph that Miguel brings with him to the Land of the Dead.
The deployment of the photo is a great example of how to tell a story through pictures,
or more accurately, with a picture. Somebody’s face has been torn