Coco

As I sit down to write my review of Pixar’s Coco, the news is breaking about Pixar founder John Lasseter being asked to take a six month leave after lots and lots of sexual misconduct. In 2006 when Disney acquired Pixar, they hoped Lasseter would bring some of that success to Disney’s animation. All this, a day after the news broke about Charlie Rose being fired. And on a day I received a package from the filmmakers of Baby Driver, with an album, script, sunglasses, and DVD of the film. I’m guessing they’re just glad the Kevin Spacey stuff broke right after the film’s successful run.

I received an email this morning from the makers of Wind River (Jeremy Renner), hoping it gets considered for voting in various awards I get to vote in. For those that don’t know, it’s a Weinstein movie.

As much as Disney/Pixar is probably freaking out over this Lasseter news with this movie opening tomorrow, they have nothing to worry about. It’s an animated movie families will go to, and it’s well done. The box office isn’t going to be hurt by this scandal.

This story has a young Mexican boy named Miguel (voiced nicely by 12-year-old newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) yearning to play music. His family runs a successful shoe making business, and they want him to be part of it. They also have a reason to hate musicians. Grandma Rose was in love with a musician who left her to pursue his dreams of making it, never to return. Music has since been banned from the house.

Miguel had been trying to borrow a guitar from the tomb of Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), who was a local legend decades earlier. He needs it to perform in a talent show during the “Day of the Dead.”

Ernesto is Miguel’s idol, and he has his albums and photos hidden in the attic. Once he takes the guitar and strums it, he’s transported to the Land of the Dead, along with a stray dog he’s been running around with. The visual of the city and buildings, as well as all the animation in this movie, is gorgeous. We watch as spirits get a one-day pass to go visit the living, and it’s all an interesting concept.

He meets Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), whose loved ones have forgotten him. And if a photo isn’t left out, he’s not allowed to cross. He’s trying to convince Miguel to bring a photo of him back home to put up. The deal is…if he does it, he’ll arrange a meeting with Ernesto.

I remember when this movie was being made, many changes were made when the studio went to the Latino community to show them clips to make sure they weren’t offending anyone. That was after the title “Day of the Dead” upset some folks. The cast is entirely Latino (except of course, for John Ratzenberger, who is in all Pixar flicks). Disney even went so far as to hire some of the critics, which included cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz (who does the unfunny comic strip La Cucaracha).

I think they were so concerned with giving proper respect to the Mexican traditions, they failed to do justice to these characters and the story. It also means they didn’t go for as much comedy, perhaps fearing that would be offensive when dealing with their traditions (there were a few jokes about Frida Kahlo’s eyebrow that were cute).

It was directed by Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and co-directed by Adrian Molina, who also co-wrote the script with Matthew Aldrich.

This isn’t the most engaging story, but it’s got some catchy original tunes, The music draws from mariachi, cumbia, marimba…with a Tom Jones and movie/Elvis vibe.

Production designer Harley Jessup gets credit for the lavish colors and vistas in the metropolis where the dead reside.

It’s a shame that Hector is the only character that shows depth and sadness, after we spend much of the movie thinking he’s just a fool, pretending to know Ernesto. Yet it did have a surprising turn I didn’t see coming, although I have to wonder…with some of these elements being a bit dark, this isn’t a movie for the real young kids. And on that note, I have to give a shout-out to AMC, where the movie screened. Normally I don’t care about signs that talk about various ages. Aside from the one time at a movie theatre in Vegas that gave me a senior discount for food, they don’t usually concern me. I found this one interesting. It showed the various ratings of films and explained what they meant. They added, “No little ones under 6 after 6 p.m. for R-rated films. It’s our curfew.”

Thank you, AMC! Hopefully other theatres will follow in your footsteps. And might I add, no babies should be allowed into any movie, at any time, unless it’s rated G.

Coco is rated PG, and probably not suitable for kids under 8. For kids over that, and adults, you’ll find lots to be entertained by.

3 stars out of 5.