Tiny marshmallows not included

S o how badly do you need music in your life? Are you willing to die for it?  That’s dedication. Reasonable dedication? Of that, I can only speculate. What I do know is those who would prefer death to lack-of-art do exist, and whether or not I’m among them, they certainly have my attention. As does today’s film, Coco.

It the Day of the Dead in a small Mexican village and li’l Miguel — perhaps that’s pequeño Miguel — wants in on the local talent show so he can be like local legend Ernesto de la Cruz. Miguel’s private shrine to this prematurely deceased El-Vis would be considered an element of a horror film were it not for the subject matter. Come to think of it, a Day of the Dead with ghosts aplenty is also horror material. Are you sure this is a comedy?

Anyhoo, Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) don’t care about the soon-to-be-walking-dead, and has to hide his personal shrine from the fam cuz back in el día, great great grandpa [Face Removed] skipped out on great great grandma and great grandma Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía) to tour the music world, never to return. Ever since, the Riveras shunned music and got into the shoe business, essentially going from Elvis to elves. But Miguel is a born mariachi – Hmmmmm. Does the face of great great grandpa torn out of the photograph belong to the great Ernesto de la Cruz? That would explain a few things. And it would also justify grave-robbing as Miguel does when bitchy Abuelita Elena (Renée Victor) destroys the guitar Miguel built for himself. Wait. Strike that. Nothing justifies grave robbing. And the movie thinks so, too, for when Miguel swipes the heirloom from the de la Cruz tomb, he stops existing in our world and crosses over to the Land of the Dead.

Pixar went all out for the dead scene – there is some fabulous animation introducing us to neon DeadWorld and an ornate orange petal-covered bridge that takes us there. Oooo. Here’s the part that bugs me – the border crossing is exactly as it sounds. There’s an officer. “Do you have anything to declare?” So … there’s a dead border service? Is there a dead border patrol, too?  Oh, this is perfect fodder for our new national idiocy. I can see it now: “BUILD THE WALL! KEEP THE MEXICAN DEAD OUT!” Sure, it’s an imaginary bridge in an animated film, but imagination of the nonexistent is the cornerstone of right-wing paranoia. Yeah, I can see this is going to be a problem.

The world of the dead is strangely hierarchical. I’d assume the dead would be beyond that, wouldn’t you? Isn’t death the ultimate equalizer? Apparently not; there are still jobs, celebrities, peons, and a bizarre fear of the living. Miguel’s relatives aren’t pleased about the addition to DeadWorld. His late great, great grandmother, Mamá Imelda Rivera (Alanna Ubach) says she’ll remove the curse (returning Miguel back to the living) only if Miguel gives up his love of music. Pffft, some grateful dead you are, lady.  So the question is: can Miguel figure out how to get back to the land of the living without giving up his forbidden love of music? If only he could talk face-to-face with great great grandpa de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).

Trust me; I haven’t spoiled that much here. Horror elements aside, Coco is a lovely film, and the most moving Pixar release since Toy Story 3. Is that enough to like the film? Why yes, most sufficient, thank you. Is it enough to call Coco and elite film? I don’t think so. There will be arguments, of course, and I love that Pixar has chosen to go with a story following Mexican folklore. However, I found Coco’s characters fairly one-dimensional. The mystery is the best element present, which shouldn’t be the case in an animated film. There is no acting here, so the characters have to be endearing and dynamic on their own. Sadly, I found them fairly run-of-the-mill, even that child who would rather be dead that unmusical.

Destined shoemaker, Miguel instead
Is ambling with a different tread
For his music career
Finds a path of drear
Nothing’s so alive as the recently dead

Rated PG, 109 Minutes
Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Writer: Adrian Molina & Matthew Aldrich
Genre: Getting in touch with your dead side
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: People who would rather die than never play music again
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Out-of-control border agents

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