If You’re Planning On Seeing Coco… Learn From My Mistakes And Wear Waterproof Mascara

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To say that Coco made me cry would be a huge understatement.  Not since Up (2009) has a Pixar film made me cry so hard.  From the moment the film’s protagonist Miguel (Anthony Gonzales) introduces to his great-grandmother Mama Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia), tears started to form.  And they stayed there for the entire film.  By the time we got to the really emotional moments involving Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), and especially when the story came full circle and returned to Mama Coco, I was bawling my eyes out.  It is a beautiful film, but an emotional one.

It is also hilarious.  There are some really wonderful comedic moments, but it is Dante the dog/spirit guide who steals the show.  But he is not merely there for comedic relief as the trailers of the film might suggest – he is actually an integral part of the story.  I am assuming he is named after Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, as it is Dante the dog who guides Miguel through the afterlife.  And it is Dante who knows the twist ending of the story right from the beginning.  That being said, he’s still funny as hell (pun intended).  After having recently spent time with two dogs who act almost exactly like Dante, his antics had me in stitches.

Now, I mentioned a “twist” but honestly the film is so heavy-handed with it’s foreshadowing that it really wasn’t hard to figure out all of the twists and turns that were thrown our way.  Most of the important elements of the film revolve around anything to do with Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt) so even the slightest details that have to do with that character become crucial later on.  The film does such a good job of establishing the facts, the recurring themes and motifs, and laying down some serious hints that when certain events occur within the film, we have already been adequately prepared for the arrival of these moments.  Now normally, if a film was this heavy handed with the foreshadowing that there were virtually no surprises that might seem boring.  This was not the case with Coco as the story was so moving and heartfelt.  There were certain things I was expecting to happen because of the foreshadowing, I waited in anticipation for those moments, and when they did occur it was worth the wait.

At one point, due to the way the story was going, I was worried that the plot would end up being too similar to The Book of Life (2014).  On or around Dia de los Muertos, an aspiring young Mexican musician wants to pursue his passions, despite the wishes of his family to abandon music in favour of the family business; the hero eventually journeys to the land of the dead and can only succeed on his quest with the help of his deceased relatives.  Admittedly, the two stories do share a number of similarities.  But luckily, Coco still felt like its own story.  It didn’t feel like a mere re-working of common tropes and it had its own unique qualities.

In terms of the cinematic experience for this film, I saw this in 3D and it was definitely worth it as this film has so much detail and colour.  It is clear that a lot of work went into its design and production.  Thankfully, I saw this film late in its run.  Although I had wanted to see Coco much sooner, I’m glad I didn’t because of what I have heard about the opening animation: Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.  From the articles I had read,both  parents and children who had been to see Coco were not particularly pleased with the opening animation as younger children were not old enough to really be familiar with Frozen (2013) characters, and just about everyone thought it was too long.  Apparently, this short was to be cut from all future showings of Coco.  This must have taken effect as there was no opening short feature before this Pixar film, but there was a trailer advertising Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.  From what I saw, I am assuming that just about all of the funniest jokes were in the trailer, so the actual short feature itself probably wouldn’t be all that funny.  Plus, I’ll admit, I was enamoured with Frozen when it first came out, but by now I am just sick of it.  I am really, really glad that I did not have to sit through 20 minutes of even more Frozen.  Given the emotional tone of Coco I feel it would have cheapened the experience to precede it with an opening animation like that.

All in all, the film is an emotional roller coaster, and it is deeply moving and heartfelt family film.  I find that, for the most part, the more recent Pixar films have not been as strong as the ones from my childhood and early teenage years, but Coco is a film that I would be proud to add to my collection once the DVD/Blu-Ray hits stores.  The animation is gorgeous, the story is moving, and the message about the importance of family makes it a truly wonderful family film.  Well done Pixar.

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