There have been some good animated movies in 2017, but the stand outs are few. One of the best is the new release of Disney/PIXAR’s adventure comedy Coco. Filled with laughter, excitement, music and life lessons, the animated feature should become a family favorite.
There’s a new princess Coco on Disney’s list, or maybe she’s a queen, but certainly a matriarch. Her name is Mama Coco (voice of Ana Ofelia Murguia) and she’s the great grandmother of a boy named Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez). Quite talented Miguel wants to be a great singer and guitar player like the greatest ever Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). In a small space in the attic with the street dog Dante, Miguel practices in secret in front of a shrine he has made to the famous musician.
But, there’s one huge problem, his family, all the way up to Mama Coco has banned music in the family forever. Ever since his great, great grandmother was deserted by her husband for a life on the stage even the sounds of the musicians were not welcome in the home. His grandmother Abuelita (voice of Renee Victor) is so adamant that no one, including Miguel, can ever play an instrument.
With the festival of the “Day of the Dead” approaching, Miguel yearns to be a part of it, especially the talent contest. But, he finds himself without his guitar. When he steals Ernesto de la Cruz’s guitar from a shrine in the graveyard, something strange starts to happen to him that leads the boy into the Land of the Dead where his adventure begins.
The film sets up the audience for some life lessons, some big laughs, excellent Spanish musical entertainment and a journey filled with the beautiful backdrop of Mexican heritage. Co-directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina put on an amazing display of animation and awe as their character Miguel travels through the Land of the Dead where skeletons abound as the remnants of their past lives. The dead come alive on the one day of the year that their former loved ones rejoice the festival of the dead. And they too celebrate with a concert by the great Ernesto de la Cruz.
Along his journey, Miguel meets the skeleton of Hector (voice of Gael Garcia Bernal) who has to sneak into the festival since he has not been honored by his family. As Miguel’s confidant he tells the stories behind the division of life and death. Hector enlightens the audience on the importance for honoring loved ones who have passed away and why Miguel should respect his family’s wishes. It becomes a test of Miguel’s love of family and his responsibilities to them.
There’s not much more I can say about the film, except that I enjoyed it as an adult and listening to the kids as they left the theater, I’m convinced that this animated movie should be in the top 5 when it comes to Award’s day. It may even give this year’s Beauty and the Beast a run for the most box-office high worldwide. Just saying.
Coco has been rated PG by the MPAA for thematic elements. My feeling on the rating is that it may take about 5 to 10 minutes for the very young to adjust to the skeletons, some of which do cast a deathly grimace now and then. In comparison, if your kids did see The Book of Life (2014) this movie is head and shoulders above that film and Coco is more family friendly.
FINAL ANALYSIS: The best animated feature for kids this year, bar none.
Additional Film Information
Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Anthony Gonzalez, Benjamin Bratt, Renee Victor
Directed by: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Genre: Family, Animation, Adventure, Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic element
Running Time: 1 hr. 49 Min.
Release Date: November 22, 2017
Distributed by: Disney/PIXAR
Released in: Standard, 3D, Real 3D