When they're ‘in the zone,’ PIXAR plays a different game then other animators. And COCO’s ‘in the zone’ most of the time. (A loss of narrative focus toward the middle, has them overcompensate with, admittedly, spectacular visuals.) Three years ago, Guillermo del Toro went down a similar path in THE BOOK OF LIFE/’14, which makes COCO’s superiority all the more striking. Story originality, imagination, a big thumping heart, even in Mexican art research. (And sly gags right from the start, like adding a Mariachi kick to ‘Wish Upon A Star’ for the opening Disney logo; or in letting Benjamin Bratt lean into his Ricardo Montalban voice.) Co-directors Adrian Molina (his debut) and Lee Unkrich (who soloed on TOY STORY 3), they also worked on the script, find a great way to guide us thru the Day of the Dead tradition, emphasizing generational connection (and conflict) in a symbiotic spiritual relationship between the living and the dead. In this case, gently elaborated and emotionally lifted by 12-yr-old Miguel, a boy who can’t suppress an inherited gift for music in a house where music has long been taboo. Determined to follow his bliss and compete in a local talent contest, as well as show a bit of teen rebellion, he ends up stuck, possibly for good, in the Land of the Dead with past (make that ‘passed’) ancestors. More than enough framework to hang a film on, especially with its rich ethnic look. Beautifully voiced by a pitch-perfect cast (in both character and song), the film boasts an awesome third act twist, sorting itself out in wonderfully satisfying manner.
DOUBLE-BILL/CONTEST: With Miguel stuck in the Land of the Dead, his physical body starts dissolving into a skeletal ghost figure. No doubt, an intentional echo of PINOCCHIO’s nightmare-inducing donkey metamorphoses on Pleasure Island. But there’s another, harder to spot, ‘borrowing’ at the film’s climax as ‘50s style tv cameras ‘accidentally’ expose our villain by showing his true nature on live studio monitors. Name the likely film source to win a MAKSQUIBS DVD Write-Up of Your Choice.