Monday, June 18, 2018

Coco (2017)

Life’s not easy for Miguel.  He desperately wants to play music, but happens to be born into a family that despises the profession.  It all goes back to Miguel’s great-great-grandmother, Imelda.  She was abandoned by her husband, who wanted to go out into the world and entertain people.  She turned to making shoes to raise her daughter, Coco.  It was a profession passed down through the generations, meaning that Miguel does have a career waiting for him.  It’s just not the one that he would have chosen for himself.

The Day of the Dead is coming up, meaning that his family is preparing an ofrenda with pictures of deceased relatives.  At the very top sit’s a photo of Imelda, Coco and the great-great-grandfather.  (Being that the great-great-grandfather is persona non grata, his face is missing.)  When Miguel breaks the frame, he comes to realize that the man in the photo is dressed like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz.  He’s even holding Ernesto’s iconic guitar, which Miguel plans on stealing so that he might play in a talent contest.

The catch is that Miguel becomes invisible once he has the guitar.  He is seen by the dead, who have come over from the Land of the Dead.  Miguel is escorted over to the Land of the Dead, where he meets his deceased relatives, including Imelda.  The only way he can get back is with the blessing of a family member, which they are happy to give him, provided that he never play music again.  This sets off an adventure for the 12-year-old boy, who is set on meeting Ernesto, believing him to be the only family member that would give an unconditional blessing., as the rest of his family is kept in line by Imelda.

For those familiar with Pixar movies, I don’t know that there are going to be a lot of surprises.  Ernesto is a hero to Miguel and to a lot of other people.  It soon becomes clear that Ernesto has a past that he wants to keep hidden.  (Sometimes, heroes make the best villains.)  Then, there’s Héctor.  He offers to help Miguel if Miguel can take a picture back to the Land of the Living.  Héctor has only a daughter to remember him.  In the Land of the Dead, beign forgotten leads to a second, possibly real death.  Héctor would seem to have more to offer than would meet the eye.

There’s also the time limit set by having to return by sunrise.  If Miguel can’t do this, he’s stuck in the Land of the Dead.  It’s somewhat cliché to have it run down to the buzzer, yes.  But I’m not sure it would have been as much fun if Miguel had made it back with time to spare.

You might think that death and the afterlife wouldn’t be good for children.  The dead are portrayed as dressed skeletons, with the most obvious skeletal feature usually being the skull.  There are scenes with the skeletons coming apart and reforming, so this may be a judgment call for parents of younger children.  However, I don’t think it was meant to be scary.  Most of it comes off as being silly.

I hate to say that a studio’s output is safe, but I do think audiences can expect a certain level of quality from Pixar.  The movie is rated PG, but I would imagine a lot of this deals with the depictions of the afterlife.  (The only really gruesome death is when Ernesto is killed by a falling bell.)  I would think that children and adults alike could enjoy the movie.  The story of a boy trapped by familial expectation is one everyone can understand.

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