FlixChatter Review – COCO (2017)

guestpost
Directed By: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Written By: Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz , Matthew Aldrich & Adrian Molina
Runtime: 1h 49min

Before I get into this review, I want to address one of the main arguments I’ve heard about it: that Coco is a rip-off of DreamWorks’s 2013 film The Book of Life. I don’t think this is a fair assessment. The only major similarity is that they’re both centered around Dia de Los Muertos, the Mexican holiday honoring the dead. Besides that, each movie has different storylines, tones, and animation styles. If there are going to be two movies about a holiday from an underrepresented culture, all the better.

The young protagonist Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez)

Coco is the story of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young aspiring musician whose family bans music from their home after Miguel’s great-great grandfather abandoned his wife and daughter (Miguel’s great-grandmother, Mama Coco, played by Ana Ofelia Murguía) to become a famous musician. On El Dia de los Muertos, Miguel breaks into the tomb of his idol, the famous Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), to borrow his guitar for a talent contest. As soon as he strums the strings, he is transported to The Land of the Dead, where, along with his new friend and guide Hector (Gael García Bernal) he learns more about his family and their past, and the role music has played in it.

Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt)

This is easily my new favorite Pixar movie. The story is so unique, and there are some surprisingly dire stakes and dark twists, but it’s still accessible to all ages. Yes, it’s a kids’ movie, but it’s a kids movie that is centered around a holiday dedicated to the dead, which isn’t exactly a light subject. The film handles the subject beautifully, though, sending a strong message about the importance of family and remembering lost loves ones, passing stories from generation to generation. And, of course, the end of the movie will make you cry, because PIXAR THRIVES ON YOUR TEARS. If I had to nitpick, I’d say that some of the exposition about Dia de Los Muertos felt like someone reading from a Spanish textbook, not like a grandmother (Renee Victor as Abuelita) explaining it to her grandson (Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel), who would presumably know about the holiday already anyway. It’s not a huge deal, but it still stood out to me.

Renee Victor as the voice of Abuelita

A strong script like this requires a strong cast to bring it to life, and the cast of Coco is fantastic, but there are a couple actors who especially stand out. Anthony Gonzalez is incredibly talented for such a young actor; he manages to be endearing without being cloying and holds his own alongside veteran performers. Gael García Bernal (AKA my celebrity husband ever since I saw El Crimen del Padre Amaro in college) is wonderful as Hector, giving both excellent comedic delivery as well as genuinely touching, emotional performances.

In addition to the acting, the cast is made up of incredible singers. The music in this movie is easily my favorite thing about it, blending a mix of classic Mexican folk songs with original pieces. The styles range from ranchera to Golden Age Mexican cinema ballads, and it’s all masterfully performed by the cast. Anthony’s voice is angelic but surprisingly full; I was delighted when he first burst into “Un Poco Loco,” his big number he performs with Hector. I had no idea Gael could sing so well (my only experience hearing him was in the baffling cover of “I Want You to Want Me” in Rudo y Cursi), but he has such a warm, rich tone, and his lullaby version of “Remember Me” is heart-wrenching.

Miguel with Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal)

I didn’t realize Benjamin Bratt, the actor who voices famous musician Ernesto de la Cruz, could sing as well; I had to check IMDB after hearing his smooth, booming voice to make sure it was actually him singing (the insanely talented Antonio Sol sings for the character for “The World is Mi Familia” and “La Llorona,” but Bratt holds his own in “Remember Me” and “Much Needed Advice”). The musical show stealer, though, is Alanna Ubach as Mama Imelda. Her rendition of “La Llorona” toward the end of the movie is phenomenal. My only complaint is that its her only full song in the movie.

Miguel with Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach)

The only thing more vibrant than this film’s soundtrack is, of course, its animation. Pixar has really outdone itself with this movie. It’s as technically impressive as its predecessors, with incredibly realistic detail, but Coco is so much more colorful and imaginative than anything I’ve seen from them so far. Their interpretation of the Land of the Dead is breathtaking, and the way they animate the movement of its skeletal citizens is so creative. I especially love the brightly-colored alebrijes, these fantastical creatures ranging from cute and goofy to majestic and intimidating. There’s too much to take in in one viewing-so, obviously, I plan on watching this multiple times.

Not only is this my new favorite Pixar movie, it’s my favorite movie I’ve reviewed this year. It’s incredibly well-written, the acting is solid, the music is moving, and the animation is visually stunning. I strongly recommend checking this out if you get the chance. You will not be disappointed.

laura_review


Have you seen ‘COCO’? Well, what did you think? 

Weekend Viewing Roundup: Mini[on] review of Despicable Me 2

Happy Sunday everyone! Hope your Summer weekend was a fun one! It’s a mellow one after a hectic few weeks for me, though my hubby’s triathlon race can’t be described as such. Strong thunderstorm nearly canceled the entire thing, but fortunately the short distance still went on, phew! So, did you see any new releases this weekend? Ah well, looks like Pacific Rim actually lost to two sequels. I guess it’s to be expected that Despicable Me 2 would reign at the box office but man, apparently 7% Rotten Tomatoes score doesn’t deter people from going to see Grown Ups 2 [shrugs], earning a whopping $42 mil, which is $4 mil more than Pacific Rim 😦


My weekend watching:

MansfieldPark1999Mansfield Park (1999) – rewatch

ACatinParis
A Cat in Paris
(2010)


And here’s my mini review of…

DESPICABLE ME 2

DespicableMe2_Banner
When I first rented the first movie, I instantly fell in love with those yellow minions, so I was thrilled when I heard they had a bigger part in this movie. In this sequel, ex-supervillain Gru (Steve Carrell) is adjusting to family life, as adopted father to three adorable girls Margo, Edith and Agnes. He and his crew of Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) and his legion of minions now attempt an honest living in the jam & jelly business. That is until the Anti-Villain League (AVL) enlist his help to investigate the latest major heist of a secret Arctic lab.

The movie is as fast-paced as the original, it didn’t take long before I was swept away into the colorful world of Gru & co. The whole kidnapping scene has a playful homage to 007, complete with the amphibious car/boat/plane a la The Spy Who Loved Me). The arrival of a couple of new characters add a dose of fun and hilarity to the story: Lucy Wilde, Gru’s AVL partner and Eduardo, owner of a Mexican restaurant Salsa, in the mall where Gru & Lucy’s going undercover. Lucy’s pretty much tailored perfectly for Kristen Wiig‘s comedic chops, but Benjamin Bratt actually has pretty good comic timing. Oh, I also love Steve Coogan as the AVL director Silas Ramsbottom. Just like the minions, Silas and Eduardo already look hilarious before they even opens their mouths!

DespicableMe2_Stills

I find Gru to be a pretty fun and likable lead due to Carrell’s charms, but it’s hard to refute that the wacky-but-lovable minions supplied the most laugh-out-loud moments in their endless mischief and shenanigans! Kudos to Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud for creating such uproariously funny characters with these minions, even creating a certain ‘minion language’ that’s all their own but somehow still make out what they’re saying. At the same time, I do think they might work better as supporting characters though, as they might be overwhelming if the movies revolves entirely on these mischievous little guys!

I have to say though that the story is pretty thin, as the creators rely heavily on these irresistible characters. The plots are predictable and the even mawkish at times, but yet this movie still delivers on a fun family entertainment. The scenes of Gru and his girls, especially the adorable Agnes (Elsie Fisher), who dreams of having her own mother, tugs your heartstrings. I think the moral of the story about family and loyalty comes across, which is quite a feat in itself as it could’ve easily been drowned out by the riotous energy of the supervillains battle. I wish I had gone to a matinee showing though, I don’t know that it’s worth $10 at the cinema. I didn’t go for the 3D but the visuals are certainly gorgeous to look at, which is to be expected as the quality of animated features have improved significantly in the past few years. I’d say, if you like the first movie, then you probably get a kick out of this one as well.

Three and a half stars out of Five

3.5 out of 5 reels


So that’s my weekend folks, what did YOU watch this weekend?