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'Coco' is imaginative tale where life abounds in the Land of the Dead

COCO (Photo: Disney/Pixar) 

4 out of 5 Stars
Lee Unkrich
Writer: Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz, Matthew Aldrich, Adrian Molina
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Animated
Rated: PG for thematic elements

Synopsis: Miguel wants to become a musician, but music has been banned by his family. When Miguel discovers that he might be related to his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, he travels to the Land of the Dead where he meets his ancestors and discovers his family’s deep connection with music.

Review: “Coco” was released in Mexico a few weeks ago and it has already become the highest grossing film in that country’s history. While box office numbers aren’t always a clear indicator of the quality of a film, it does speak to the authenticity and spirit of Pixar’s endeavor to put some distance between Halloween and the Day of the Dead. Certainly some of the imagery, particularly the use of skulls, appears to tie in with Halloween, but the reasons behind the celebrations are hardly similar. Day of the Day is a celebration of family. It is the one day of the year when our ancestors can travel from the Land of the Dead to visit their family in the Land of the Living. Mexico’s box office returns suggest that Pixar was successful in the way it presents the Day of the Dead.

Authenticity aside, the film also has a grand sense of adventure and there are plenty of gorgeous visuals and musical numbers as Miguel, a living boy, walks among the dead searching for his family members.

The film isn’t particularly frightful. Yes, it is populated by a host of skeletons, but most are jovial and playful. Young audience members might need a moment or two to adjust, but I suspect they’ll simply get lost in the bright colors that exist in the skeletons’ world.

There is a point that comes as the film is about to enter its third and final act where the story takes a very unexpected turn that for a moment takes the narrative to a fairly dark place, but the third act brings the tale back into the light. In fact, the third act is marvelous as it provides the emotional connect that the better Pixar films provide.

“Coco” is a crowd pleaser with an emphasis on ancestry that makes it a perfect fit for moviegoers this holiday season.