Review: Coco the least inventive Pixar film without a number in its title

Tia Rosita, Papa Julio, Tio Oscar, Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), Tia Victoria and Tio Felipe

Tia Rosita, Papa Julio, Tio Oscar, Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), Tia Victoria and Tio Felipe in Coco. Photo: Disney Pixar - Credit: Disney Pixar

Disney Pixar's coming-of-age adventure amid Mexican Day of the Dead culture has little of the humour or visual wonder you'd associate with the usually inventive studio.

Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) in Coco. Photo: Disney Pixar

Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) in Coco. Photo: Disney Pixar - Credit: Disney Pixar

Coco (PG)

***

A film about the Mexican holiday Día de Los Muertos, Day of the Dead, has been in the works at Pixar since the turn of the decade.

The time taken has probably been fortuitous as it has emerged at a time when reviewers and audiences in America are keen to show they embrace other cultures and people south of the unwalled border.


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It has been the biggest film in Mexican history, and critical and audience approval is through the roof. For them, it ranks up with Pixar's greatest classics.

Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) and his great-great-grandmother Mama Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia) i

Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) and his great-great-grandmother Mama Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia) in Coco. Photo: Disney Pixar - Credit: Disney Pixar

Personally, I wouldn't fancy its chances in a struggle between The Good Dinosaur and Brave as the least energised or inventive Pixar film that doesn't have a number in its title.

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Twelve-year-old dimple-cheeked Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) lives in the bustling Mexican village of Santa Cecilia, where his family have worked as shoemakers for generations.

His grandmother Abuelita (Renee Victor) strictly enforces a ban on music, which dates back to a doomed romance between Miguel's great-great-grandmother Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) and a fame-seeking guitarist.

'Being part of this family means being here for this family,' Abuelita warns her grandson, who secretly yearns to be a musician like his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).

To this end, on Dia de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead - when Miguel is supposed to be honouring his ancestors, the boy sneaks into the ornate burial tomb of his idol to 'borrow' a guitar so he can perform at the village talent show. One strum of the instrument magically transports the youngster to an alternate plane, where he can communicate with long-lost skeletal relatives.

Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) and his loyal dog Dante crossing into the Land of the Dead in Co

Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) and his loyal dog Dante crossing into the Land of the Dead in Coco. Photo: Disney Pixar - Credit: Disney Pixar

It's a new and novel location but the same old Pixar formula; which is particularly disappointing as prior to this I'm not sure I had ever accepted that Pixar worked to a formula.

It has little of the humour or visual wonder you associate with their films. This time tears are its main objectives and it hunts them down relentlessly, primarily by repeating the same gimmick used in Inside Out.

There, the big emotional scene was Bing Bong, the imaginary childhood friend, dying when he is finally forgotten, and Coco is built on regurgitations of that idea: in the afterlife, people only exist as long as someone living remembers them.

I wish I could have been more enthusiastic about this because the company has given me some of my happiest cinema experiences, and because I didn't get to use my 'You should Coco,' recommendation at the end of the review.

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