Coco (2017) - SPOILER-FREE Review

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Directed by: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina

Written by: Matthew Aldrich, Adrian Molina

Starring: Gael García Bernal, Anthony Gonzalez, Benjamin Bratt, Renée Victor

Runtime: 105 min

The most recent Disney-Pixar movie was released late in 2017 and it tells the story of Miguel's (Anthony Gonzalez) dream of becoming a famous musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).

His family has an old ban on music but Miguel wants to follow his dream and he ends up on the Land of the Dead, after a mysterious occurrence. There, he meets the con artist Hector (Gael García Bernal) and they both go on a meaningful journey to discover the secrets of the youngest's family history.

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If there is one thing that I wish my country would change it's its perspective on animated films. Basically, the overall opinion is that they are made exclusively for kids, which is why The Emoji Movie and The Boss Baby were two of the most successful movies at the last year's box office in Portugal. No parent cares about the film's message as long as it can hold their kids still for a few hours ... I am ashamed of that, especially when Coco is one of the best movies of the year!

Pixar has been releasing incredible films year after year and Coco is one of the best in the most recent times. Obviously, the movie's story and its final message are what elevate it and turn it into something pretty marvelous. The screenplay is notably well-written, it is emotionally meaningful and it does not follow a conventional path. Having in mind that youngsters are, in fact, the large percentage of viewers, this is definitely not the usual "kid-friendly" story with cute characters and a fun adventure.

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Coco stands alone in relation to other Disney-Pixar films. It deals with highly sensitive themes such as life, death, spirituality and family traditions, and the characters are skeletons for most of the runtime. So, I understand if parents are afraid to take their kids to the theater if they don't know what the story leads up to. After all, a movie's appealing value is also something that should be taken into consideration when producing a film.

During the first half of the movie, I struggled to understand why it was receiving so much critical praise. The first act's pacing is a bit too slow contrasting with the exciting rhythm of the second half and the score is not that impressive. Miguel's dream is to be a musician, so I expected astounding songs and the truth is that not even the Oscar-nominated song "Remember Me" is able to step up during this period. There are a lot of Spanish songs and I don't think it will be an easy-ride for English-speaking children. The score feels a bit underwhelming and that is probably my main issue with the film.

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However, this mostly applies to the first half. There is a scene midway through that changes everything and completely transforms the movie. Every minor issue that I had until that point disappeared because every single one of those problems has a reason behind it. Every action, every line of dialogue and every song. I love this unexpected moment which makes everything take a totally different meaning and launches the film to its tremendous success.

The characters are extremely well-developed, their backstories have so much heart and emotion to them that I couldn't stop myself from crying at the end. I mean, it is impossible not to feel something powerful during that common scene Pixar always nails in the third act of its movies. It proves I really cared about Miguel and his journey to follow his dream, but without casting his family aside.

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Hector is also a fantastic character who helps Miguel to understand what is really important in life and how to balance everything out. The chemistry between these two characters elevates the story to a remarkably compelling one, filled with not only life lessons but also with tons of adventures throughout. Abuelita (Renée Victor) and the dog Dante are the comedy main sources and they definitely bring some needed brightness and fun to a mostly dramatic story.

The voice casting is really great, all of the actors do a phenomenal job. The voices feel realistic and adequate to the characters they respectively portray. The duo of directors also achieves a great result by working with the writers to give the story the build-up it needs for that major scene as well as its necessary misdirection. The tone is very well-balanced and the screenplay has just the right amount of drama, adventure and comedy mixed brilliantly.

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The visuals are really beautiful, full of color and the animation is seamless. I mean, I always expect to be blown away by the realism that computer animation can bring, but Disney and Pixar are always able to surpass my already high expectations. Entertainment-wise, this film is excellent, but not ground-breaking awesome. Like I said above, this is probably the least kid-charming movie that the companies have produced since the beginning.

In a perfect world, this film would be heavily shown to kids since their parents actually care about what they learn from the story, besides having fun with it. As kids, we are like a sponge, we absorb and remember everything people tell us. From what is good to what is bad, kids grow up to become someone that lived with those concepts inserted into their brains.

If you take your child to watch a movie which final message is "look at your phone more", your kid is going to spend more time on the phone and eventually disconnect from the real world. Coco not only teaches how to deal with death but helps to understand that people are only gone if we forget them during life. As long as we remember them, they will always be with us and that is a message I want my future kids to learn and grow up with.

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All in all, Coco is one of the best films of the year and one of the best animated feature movies Pixar has released in the most recent years. An extremely emotional and heartfelt story, filled with life lessons and with a truly meaningful message for every viewer of any age. The animation is astonishingly beautiful, the characters are fabulous and the song "Remember Me" is remarkably memorable. A slow pacing during the first half is compensated with an exciting second half, but the overall score ends up being underwhelming. Besides that, some unescapable cliches here and there might lose the audience's appeal but for me, they are flawless.

Coco breaks through some amazing films into my updated Top10: Best Movies of 2017!

|  A+  : 9.3-10 |  A : 8.7-9.2 |  A-  : 8.0-8.6 |  B+  : 7.3-7.9 |  B : 6.7-7.2 |  B-  : 6.0-6.6 ||  C+  : 5.3-5.9 |  C : 4.7-5.2 |  C-  : 4.0-4.6 |  D+  : 3.3-3.9 |  D : 2.7-3.2 |  D-  : 2.0-2.6 |  F : 0-1.9 |

| A+ : 9.3-10 | A: 8.7-9.2 | A- : 8.0-8.6 | B+ : 7.3-7.9 | B: 6.7-7.2 | B- : 6.0-6.6 || C+ : 5.3-5.9 | C: 4.7-5.2 | C- : 4.0-4.6 | D+ : 3.3-3.9 | D: 2.7-3.2 | D- : 2.0-2.6 | F: 0-1.9 |