Coco tells a story about a 12-year-old kid named Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), whose passion is to become a musician just like his late idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). But due to his family’s scorned past, they ban any form of music to be played whatsoever. Still, Miguel refuses to give up his dream as he ends up sneaking into the tomb of Ernesto de la Cruz to borrow the legendary guitar. Soon, he finds himself transported to the Land of the Dead when he strummed de la Cruz’s guitar. In order to get back to the real world, he needs a blessing from one of his deceased family members or trapped in the Land of the Dead forever.
An animated feature about a Mexican boy who dreams of becoming a musician that takes place during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). If you answer The Book of Life, you are absolutely right. Coco happens to share a lot in common with that Jorge R. Guiterrez’s animated movie three years ago. The biggest exception here is that Coco doesn’t contain The Book of Life‘s love-triangle storyline.
Since its inception in 1995 with Toy Story, Pixar is widely known for their originality and creativity in telling the stories that appeal to audiences of all ages. And surprisingly, Coco has neither of them. I hate to say this, but it feels like I’m watching a typical Disney animation straight out from the assembly line than a Pixar movie.
So, what went wrong? Let’s start with the main character, Miguel. Voiced by Anthony Gonzalez, his character is nothing more than a whiny and surprisingly shallow protagonist. For all the so-called “life” journey he’s been through, it’s hard to root for him. The comedy, which is mostly childish, often misses its mark. The well-meaning theme of “family comes first” is sadly told in a generic manner, while the songs — yes, even the main theme of “Remember Me” — are forgettable. If that’s not enough, co-directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina attempt to complicate their already-banal and sometimes sluggish storyline with a sudden, twisty third act. It’s like as if they include this in the last minute just to spice things up.
Fortunately, Coco does retain some of the familiar qualities commonly associated with the Pixar movie. Likewise, the animation is visually breathtaking. The macabre, yet colourful realm of the Land of the Dead is vividly realised, complete with brightly-coloured alebrijes (spirit animals), talking calaveras (skeletons) and glittering marigold petals-covered bridge that connects between the two worlds. Then, there’s the opening sequence summarising the backstory of Miguel’s family, which is uniquely told using animated images of papel picado (colourful banner of cut-out papers that strung up in a line as decorations).
Despite Gonzalez’s lacklustre performance, the supporting actors are thankfully competent enough. But of all the ensemble here, there are two actors that impresses me the most: Gael Garcia Bernal delivers a likeable performance as Hector, while Benjamin Bratt equally shines in his role as Ernesto de la Cruz.