REVIEW: If you’re going to see ‘Coco’, take along some tissues

The Art of Nerding Out

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I have a list of movies. On that list are films like “The Iron Giant”, “About Time” and “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. These are movies I’m not allowed to watch in public because they make me cry.

I’m not ashamed to cry or anything like that. It’s just that I’m a spectacularly ugly cryer. So, I do this as a public service. Wouldn’t want to scare anyone to death, you know?

Well, now I need to add “Coco”, the new Pixar film, to that list.

“Coco” is one of the best movies I’ve seen all year. It’s funny, full of great music, and beautiful to look at. The characters are wonderfully engaging and the world the movie takes place in is engrossing. And, best of all, the movie is chock full of genuine heart and emotion.

“Coco” introduces us to Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy growing up in a family of shoemakers in Mexico. Miguel yearns to become a musician, but his grandma (Renee Victor) forbids him from following his musical muse. After a particularly ugly incident on Dia de los Muertos, Miguel runs away and, in no time, finds himself trapped in the Land of the Dead.

Miguel goes on a mission to find Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a famous deceased musician he thinks can send him home. He recruits the straggler Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) to help him meet de la Cruz, all while ducking his dead relatives, led by Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach).

Truth be told, there was probably no way this movie wasn’t going to hook me. I mean, it’s about a kid who longs to be a famous musician. I grew up wanting more than anything to be a rock star, so I understand how powerful that desire can be. But “Coco” offers so much more, including thoughts about family and how our memories keep our loved ones alive long after they’ve passed on. By the third act, I was crying like that one time I fell off my bike when I was six.

The cast? They were wonderful. You’d hard pressed to find a weak link. Bratt was especially great, filling de la Cruz with such fabulous levels arrogance and self-satisfaction. And Edward James Olmos shows up to tear your heart out in one of the film’s most emotional scenes.

And the movie is full of wonderful music. Gonzalez sings like an angel and Bratt sports a deep, rich wail and makes want to hear his fronting a rock band. But the best musical moment were the quieter, more intimate ones. I don’t want to spoil too much, but there are a couple musical scenes in “Coco” that are impossible to get through without becoming weepy.

The filmmakers, led by director Lee Unkrich and co-director Adrian Molina, whip the acting and music together with one of the most beautiful visual worlds this side of “Blade Runner 2049”. It’s a world of delicate orange flower petals, vibrant pastel lights and skin textures so detailed, you feel like you can almost touch them.

But without its emotional and thematic elements, “Coco” would just be a pretty shell: fun to look at, but empty inside. But the filmmakers give you plenty to think about, and ideas about the importance of family, proper priorities and the power music has to connect us to our loved ones will stay with you long after the end credits have rolled. I left the screening feeling pride in my family heritage and a responsibility to tell their stories to anyone who will listen. I also had a wicked desire to dust off my acoustic guitar, but that was probably just me.

As for flaws, “Coco” has some a few, but they are the nitpicky-est nits to pick. The plot is predictable at some pivotal moments. A few shots are so packed with stuff to look at, it’s a little overwhelming. But the negatives get lost in the warmth and wonderfulness of “Coco”. It’s visual and musical treat. It’s a good story, well-told. Movies like “Coco” are the reason I love the movies so much.

Note: There is a 21-minute-long “Frozen” short at the head of “Coco”. So if you go to the theater and see Olaf running around onscreen, don’t freak out. You’re not in the wrong movie.

5 Indy Fedoras out of 5

MPAA Rating: PG

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