Sunday, February 25, 2018

Dead good

A kids' film all about death and preserving the memories of the departed: let's face it, on paper Coco doesn't exactly sound like the most obvious movie pitch of all time. Add to that the fact that it immerses viewers in a culture that will be, for most cinema-goers in this country at least, very alien, and you surely have the recipe for box-office disaster (however laudable the aims).

But, with Pixar at the helm, we needn't have worried. The two worlds they create (those of the living and of the dead) are spectacular feats of animation in terms of colour and texture, while the exposition of the Mexican tradition of Dia de Mertos, central to the plot, is achieved effectively without giving the impression of heavy-handedness.

Perhaps unusually for this sort of film, the writers don't seem to have been convinced that the heavier moments should be immediately counterbalanced by comedy, and - aside from skeletons continually falling apart and reassembling themselves, and Dante the dog's tongue - slapstick incidents are in relatively short supply. This, I'd say, is without doubt to their credit.

Coco being a Disney film, the fact that the overall themes are following your dreams and the importance of family ties (and the tension between the two) doesn't really come as much of a surprise. Nevertheless, the movie offers a novel treatment of the subject matter and manages to stay the right side of cliched schmaltz. If you find yourself with an unanticipated lump in your throat at the end (as well as an immediate and irresistible urge to eat tacos), don't say I didn't warn you.

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