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Film review: 'Coco' a culturally rich animated tale about family

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Preston Barta

Coco

Rated PG, 109 minutes.

Now playing.

3.5 of 5 stars

What a joy it is to watch Coco. The Day of the Dead-themed animated film isn’t built to be Pixar’s latest flagship franchise to rival their adventurous toys, monsters and cars. 

Rather it seems veteran Pixar director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and long-time animator Adrian Molina (the two share directing credit) simply want to craft an endearing story about culture, family and the capacity for change. Though familiar in its plotting, Coco achieves that goal.

The film concerns 12-year-old Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) who lives with his family in the village of Santa Cecilia in Mexico. He dreams of becoming a musician like his idol Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), but his family has banned music due to the actions of his great-great grandfather who abandoned his family to pursue his musical career.

From here, Miguel winds up trapped in the Land of the Dead. How he got there and attempts to make his escape are a mystery to discover. But you could draw comparisons to any other Disney classics, such as ones that involve aspiring-somethings working toward the fame of their idols (Ratatouille) or trying to complete an impossible task before a certain time (need I list them?).

Miguel challenges his family's generations-old ban on music, spending time with a local mariachi. But his grandmother Abuelita (Renee Victor) puts a stop to it. Walt Disney Pictures-Pixar Anima
Miguel challenges his family's generations-old ban on music, spending time with a local mariachi. But his grandmother Abuelita (Renee Victor) puts a stop to it. 
Walt Disney Pictures-Pixar Anima

But after the film gets past the normal Disney fluff, it settles into becoming quite an enjoyable buddy comedy. The buddy in this dance across the land of remembered souls is fellow musician Hector (Gael García Bernal), who knows where Ernesto resides so Miguel can return to the world of the living.

Coco is a buffet of visual delight that’s filled with charm, laughs and imagination. No matter where your beliefs lie, the film delves into Mexican culture in relatable ways that anyone can understand and appreciate. Just when Pixar let off the gas pedal of creativity with Cars 3 and The Good Dinosaur, it returns to form, and even offers some sweet sentiments about the importance of family that anyone can value.

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter @PrestonBarta.

FEATURED IMAGE: This image released by Disney-Pixar shows a scene from the animated film, Coco. Photo courtesy of Disney-Pixar.