Saturday, December 29, 2018

Coco (2017 film)

Directed by Lee Unkrich and screenplay by Unkrich and Adrian Molina from a story by Unkrich, Molina, Matthew Aldrich, and Jason Katz, Coco is the story of a 12-year old boy whose encounter with mysterious ghostly spirits accidentally transports him to the Land of the Dead where he tries to find his great-great-grandfather to return him to the living world. Inspired by the Mexican holiday in the Day of the Dead, the film is look of a boy wanting to know about his family’s roots as well as those who lived before his time. Featuring the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, Ana Ofelia Murguia, and Edward James Olmos. Coco is a rapturous and touching film from Lee Unkrich.

Set in a small town in Mexico just before the Day of the Dead, the film is about a 12-year old boy who has a love for music and idolizes a famed musician despite his family’s hatred for it as it relates to some family secrets where the boy later encounters the spirit where he finds himself in the Land of the Dead. It’s a film that play into a boy who has a love for music but doesn’t want to upset his family as he’s trying to keep it a secret. The film's screenplay by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina follows the journey that Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) embarks on as he lives with a large family who makes shoes at their small town but they have a disdain for music dating back to their ancestors when Miguel’s great-great-grandfather left his wife Imelda (Alanna Ubach) to pursue a music career as Miguel believes his great-great-grandfather is the famed musician Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).

Wanting to participate in a talent contest, Miguel runs away from his family where he tries to borrow de la Cruz’s guitar from his tomb as he finds himself in the Land of the Dead where he would meet his relatives including his great-great grandmother Imelda who tries to get him to return only if he doesn’t become a musician. The script has Miguel not just learn about family’s importance but also what it means to be great musician where he meets a dead trickster in Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) who claims to know de la Cruz where they make a deal as Hector is eager to go to the land of the living to visit his daughter in the hopes he won’t be forgotten. During their journey together, Miguel would learn some big secrets about his family as well as why Imelda and Coco were abandoned as they reach de la Cruz’s home where he’s having his annual ceremony as more revelations occur about Miguel and his family.

Lee Unkrich’s direction is definitely astonishing in terms of the world he creates of the living as well as the Land of the Dead where it has a lot of attention to detail about the holiday that is the Day of the Dead. With the animation directors Guilherme Sauerbronn Jacinto and Nickolas Rosario, along with animation supervisors Gini Cruz Santos and Michael Venturini, Unkrich and co-director Adrian Molina provide a look and tone that play into this air of tradition that is celebrated annually in Mexico. It’s a celebration of loved ones who aren’t around anymore as pictures and murals are presented with the living offering food or something special where the spirits of the dead would take it as they cross over from the Land of the Dead to the world of the living as spirits. When Miguel takes a strum of de la Cruz’s guitar, it would transport him to the Land of the Dead as it’s a world that is about the celebration of life where Unkrich’s compositions in its wide and medium shots capture it with such grand detail.

The direction also create these compositions and matching images as it play into the movies that de la Cruz starred in as well as what Miguel would match as he plays music like the man whom he believes is his great-great grandfather. The animation takes great attention to detail in some of the spiritual creatures that Miguel meets as a street dog named Dante would join him in the journey who seems to know more than he lets on. The meeting between Miguel and de la Cruz is tremendous in its scale but it also play into secrets about Miguel’s family including his great-grandmother Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia) whose memory is fading away. It adds to the stakes of what Miguel has to do to get home with the help of his deceased relatives who deal with revelations about their misfortunes. Even as they have to accept the power of music that can bring someone back to life and bring a family together. Overall, Unkrich and Molina create a dazzling yet heartfelt film about a boy whose love for music brings him into a journey to the dead in order to help his family.

Cinematographers Matt Aspbury and Danielle Feinberg do amazing work with the look of the lighting and backgrounds of some of the interiors at the places in the Land of the Dead including de la Cruz’s home with its usage of colorful lighting and shades. Editors Lee Unkrich and Steve Bloom do excellent work with the editing as its usage of rhythmic cuts help play into the drama and humor with some flashback montages to establish key moments in the film. Production designer Harley Jessup and art director Tim Evatt do incredible work with the look of the buildings and the bridge of orange petals with help from visual effects supervisor Michael O’Brien in adding some textures including the look of the old movies starring de la Cruz.

Sound designer Christopher Boyes does amazing work with the sound as it help play into the way a guitar string is tuned as well as the sounds of the spirit creatures in the Land of the Dead. The film’s music by Michael Giacchino is phenomenal for its mixture of lush orchestral music and traditional-based Mexican mariachi music that play into the drama and sense of adventure as the music soundtrack that is cultivated by music supervisor Tom MacDougall feature an array of original songs composed Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, Germaine Franco and Adrian Molina with Michael Giacchino, and some traditional pieces as the music is a major highlight of the film.

The casting by Carla Hool, Natalie Lyon, and Kevin Reher is superb as it feature some notable small roles and voice appearances from Pixar regular John Ratzenberger as dental patient crossing over to the land of the living, Natalia Cordova-Buckley as the famed artist Frida Kahlo, Carla Medina as the departure agent, Cheech Marin as a corrections officer, Gabriel Iglesias as a clerk working at the Land of the Dead, Lombardo Boyar in a dual role as a mariachi Miguel meets in his small town and a musician from the Land of the Dead, Luis Valdez in a dual role as Miguel’s uncle Tio Berto and Don Hidalgo, Sofia Espinosa and Jaime Camil as Miguel’s parents, Herbert Siguenza as Miguel’s late identical twin uncles in Tios Oscar and Felipe, Selene Luna as Miguel’s late aunt Tia Rosita, and Alfonso Arau as Miguel’s late great-grandfather/Coco’s husband in Papa Julio.

Edward James Olmos is terrific as Hector’s friend Chicharron who lives in a world of those who are being forgotten where Miguel learns about Hector’s fate if he is to be forgotten. Ana Ofelia Murguia is wonderful in her brief role as Miguel’s great-grandmother Coco as a woman whom Miguel spends a lot of time with as he’s convinced she’s waiting for someone. Renee Victor is fantastic as Miguel’s grandmother who runs the family shoemaking shop as well as be the family’s lead enforcer in ensuring that music isn’t around the family. Alanna Ubach is brilliant as Miguel’s great-great-grandmother Mama Imelda who is also Coco’s mother as a woman that is trying to get Miguel home but also carries some family secrets about why she dislikes music where she later is forced to deal with the revelations that tore her family apart.

Benjamin Bratt is amazing as Ernesto de la Cruz as the famed singer who was considered the greatest artist in all of Mexico as he is believed to be Miguel’s great-great-grandfather where he’s a man that loves what he does but is ambiguous about how he became so famous. Gael Garcia Bernal is incredible as Hector as a trickster that is trying to cross to the land of the living to see someone important whom he believes would remember him as he helps Miguel to find de la Cruz as he claims to know him leading to some major revelations for Miguel. Finally, there’s Anthony Gonzalez in a sensational performance as Miguel as 12-year old boy that loves music and wants to play music where he finds himself in the Land of the Dead and hopes to get the blessing of the man he believes is his great-great-grandfather to become a musician so he can return to the land of the living where he would learn the importance of family as well as sacrifice.

Coco is an outstanding film from Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina. Featuring a great ensemble cast, rapturous visuals, a heartfelt music soundtrack, and touching themes about the importance of family. It’s unquestionably one of Pixar’s best films but also a film that manages to embody the idea of family and how to celebrate those who are no longer around but remain alive in spirit and through love. In the end, Coco is a magnificent film from Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina.

Pixar Films: Toy Story - A Bug's Life - Toy Story 2 - (Monsters Inc.) – (Finding Nemo) – The Incredibles - Cars - Ratatouille - WALL-E - Up - Toy Story 3 - Cars 2 - Brave - Monsters University - Inside Out - The Good Dinosaur - (Finding Dory) – (Cars 3) – The Incredibles 2 - Toy Story 4 - (Onward) - Soul (2020 film) - (Luca (2021 film)) - Turning Red - (Lightyear) - (Elemental (2023 film)) - (Elio (2024 film)) - (Inside Out 2) - (Toy Story 5)

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