A ride worth taking

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 25 Nov 2017 10:35:44


By Farina Salim Quraishi


Though Disney has been having a go at cultural diversity and modernity with varying degrees of success, it’s latest offering Coco takes the efforts several notches higher, with characters who are straight out of everyday life. The family-friendly feature about death and after-life is as heart-warming as it is exuberant and takes viewers on an entertaining yet impactful ride leaving them reflecting on family, ancestry and importance of memories. Packed with lessons of life, Disney & Pixar’s Coco, celebrating Mexican culture, is a colourful closet full of gregarious ghosts with enough spirit to chase away the glummest gloom on any
given day.

Set in a rural town of Mexico, Coco is about a prosperous clan of shoe-smiths, the Riveras. Its youngest member, 12-year-old Miguel is as enthusiastic about shining shoes as he is about music. This is a bit of a problem as his family has a strict ban on music. Believing music to be an integral part of him, Miguel is in awe of Ernesto de la Cruz, who he believes is his long-lost great-grandfather. De la Cruz is a much-loved hero of Mexico, immortalised by his evergreen songs and movies. The titular Coco, Miguel’s great-grandmother, who is seemingly senile and counting the last days of her life, is the only kin not opposed to his musical aspirations. Her father abandoned the family to pursue dreams of stardom due to which the family, even today, considers music to be a curse.

On the Day of the Dead - when ancestors come back to the world to meet their family and friends - Miguel sets up a secret shrine for Ernesto and plays all his songs on an old guitar. After his secret is out and his guitar destroyed, Miguel runs away; shattered by the lost chance to play at the talent hunt. While fleeing, Miguel stumbles upon de la Cruz’s mausoleum and steals his iconic guitar. As Miguel plays the guitar, he’s transported into the afterlife, with a condition that he must find and receive blessings from his ancestor to return home, all before daybreak. As Miguel races against time to find his idol, he forges a connection with Hector, a ragged and forgotten ghost, who turns out to be more integral to Miguel’s life than he bargained for.

Much like Disney’s Moana, Coco too rides the cultural diversity wave smoothly and comes up triumphant. Coco, set in Mexico, is heavily steeped in the country’s cultural traditions, however, the colour and race of its characters isn’t its focal point. It hinges on familial bonds and how being forgotten by the living imposes another death sentence on the deceased. Despite the children-centric depiction of life after death, Coco doesn’t sugarcoat anything and stresses the importance of living life to the fullest and keeping memories alive to help the deceased live on eternally.

Also, the way conflict between individual desires and family responsibilities is depicted with charm and sensitivity and deserves a loud applause. Miguel’s angst and apprehensions, though region-specific on the surface, are actually very universal at the core. There might be hardly a child or adult who hasn’t found himself or herself opposed to family views and cribbed about the burden of relationships one time or the other. Miguel’s rebellion and reconciliation connect him to viewers regardless of the diverse setting.

If you thought the opening sequence of James Bond’s Spectre captured the Day of the dead dramatically, be ready to be awed again as Coco encapsulates the spirit of Día de Muertos in fascinating technicolour. With first-rate 3-D effects, brilliant visuals and riot of colours, Coco makes you long to be a part of the beautiful world. The picturesque land of the living pales in comparison to the Land of the Dead. The realm of the dead is hardly a dreaded zone, but rather a warm place buzzing with ‘life’, where ghosts throw fun parties and hold flashy concerts. The animation is outstanding, especially the colourful creatures from Mexican folklore.

However, for a film about a boy longing to sing, the music and songs in Coco are rather disappointing. With all songs, including the title track, Remember Me, being underwhelming at best, the music fails to score a perfect 10. Also, after the jaw-dropping first half, the film slows down post interval and even the skeletal delights feel a little too much. But things pick up soon after as the strong story, replete numerous twists and surprises, hurtles towards a fantastic if teary finale. With unforgettable characters, perfect blend of emotions and a veritable treat for eyes and senses, it’s nearly impossible to dismiss Coco as yet another animated film. So take ‘an out of the world’ ride with Coco with the little ones, and love every minute of it.

Hitavada Rating: O O O