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Coco (2017)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 2/27/2018

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/26/2018

In the 1980s, Stephen King was the "king" of the horror novel rack (and I guess any novel rack for much of the decade). And right along beside him, and not just because they were in alphabetical order, was Dean R. Koontz. Koontz may not have been as popular as King, but he did OK for himself and he wrote some excellent books. (Despite what you may think of the movie, Phantoms is a great novel.) However, if your read just a few of Koontz's books from the late 80s to the mid 90s, you would quickly see a pattern. It felt very apparent that he used a specific formula when writing his novels. Each would have a unique and creative jumping-off point, but, following that, you could imagine how he was simply plugging things into an outline. The same can be said for Pixar films. These movies are often lauded for their creativity, but one only has to scratch just beneath the surface to see that Pixar is simply repeating themselves. This is obvious in their latest effort, Coco.

Coco tells the story of Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy who lives in Mexico. He dreams of being a musician and emulating his hero, the late Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt). However, due to an event which befell his great-great-grandmother, music is forbidden in Miguel's family and he's destined to join his clan's shoe-making business. But, Miguel is determined to follow his destiny, and on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), he breaks into de la Cruz's crypt and snatches his famous guitar. As soon as he does this, Miguel becomes an ethereal figure and he finds himself in the "Land of the Dead", surrounded by his deceased relatives. They offer to send him back to the land of the living...with the ban on music intact. Miguel refuses this and with the help of a vagabond named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), Miguel sets out to find de la Cruz.

Since they began brining us feature films over 20 years ago, Pixar has presented us with many interesting premises which involve engaging characters. Woody and Buzz. Mike and Sully. Dory and Marlin. Wall-E and EVE. Carl and Russell. Merida and Elinor. Joy and Sadness. Lightning and Cruz. What do all of these Pixar duos have in common. First, they begin the story in an intriguing, and in some cases, very unique setting and situation. But, by they second act, they have gone off on a quest of some sort. Yes, Pixar definitely has a formula and the "two characters on a quest" angle is a huge part of it. In the beginning, this kind of idea felt very appropriate. But, as it was repeated over and over again, in at least eight of the studio's films, it became quite obvious that this was Pixar's go to when it came to manipulating a plot.

And now, Coco joins those ranks. The opening of the film takes us into the heart of Mexico. This may not be a unusual setting like the inside of a girl's brain or a scorched Earth, but the film's attention to detail gives us a very accurate portrayal of life in a Mexican town, down to the papel picado decorations which are used to open the story in a very elaborate way. The film then educates the viewer on Dia de los Muertos, something of which I'd heard, but knew little about. This is a backdrop to Miguel's family and their interesting views on music and their work ethic. However, once Miguel touches the guitar, the movie really takes a turn. First of all, it's never completely explained why touching the guitar makes him a ghost. Secondly, Coco then becomes yet another Pixar film in which a duo must go on a quest, as Miguel and Hector journey through The Land of the Dead trying to find a way for Miguel to return home. The third act does contain two plot twists which came as somewhat of a surprise. However, it later occurred to me that if I had been more invested in the movie, I may have seen them coming. And, as with nearly every Pixar movie, Coco is too long.

So, with Coco, we have yet another Pixar mixed bag. It's clear that the team at the animation studio still have a knack for coming up with interesting ideas and settings. But, it's also clear that they can't stop themselves from falling into old habits. This movie takes us to an inviting place and presents us with a adolescent male character who isn't annoying. They should have quite while they were ahead. But, the second half of the movie is somehow both convoluted and unoriginal. The film's crowning achievement is the animation. The amount of detail seen here is mind-blowing. If only this artistic merit could have been paired with a better story.

Coco would have terrified me when I was a child on 4K UHD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 45 Mbps. The image here is truly gorgeous, as we get no grain or defects from the source materials. The amount of detail seen here is incredible and the work which went into creating the world of Coco is obvious. The colors look fantastic, and the image is never overly light or dark. The depth is great, even in this 2D version. This is the 4K which you will want to show to skeptical friends. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The film's music sounds great, as it fills the speakers. The stereo and surround effects are very active, bringing us nicely detailed effects which highlight sounds coming from off-screen. The subwoofer gets some attention during the finale.

Most of the extra features for Coco are found on the accompanying "Bonus" Blu-ray Disc. "A Thousand Pictures a Day" (20 minutes) takes us along with the Pixar team to Mexico to see the work which went into researching the culture and look of the country. "The Music of Coco" (13 minutes) allows Composer Michael Giacchino to guide us through the sounds of the film and the piece takes us onto the soundstage to see the music being recorded. "Land of Our Ancestors" (6 minutes) focuses on the look of "The Land of the Dead" and how the designs were based on real locations. "Fashion Through the Ages" (9 minutes) shows the work which goes into creating costumes for animated characters. "The Real Guitar" (3 minutes) takes us into a guitar workshop to see a real-life version of the famed guitar in the film being made. "Paths to Pixar: Coco" (12 minutes) allows Pixar team members to describe how they have been able to fulfill their dreams. "How to Make Papel Picado" (2 minutes) shows us the creation of the colorful decorations which fill the opening credits. "You Got the Part!" (2 minutes) shows us how Anthony Gonzalez became the voice of Miguel. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 33 minutes, including an introduction from Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina. These are presented in a rough pencil format. We get five TRAILERS and "Un Poco Coco" (3 minutes), a reel of various gags. The other Blu-ray Disc included here has even more extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Unkrich, Molina, and Producer Darla K. Anderson. This trio also narrate "Welcome to the Fiesta" (2 minutes) which shows us a test reel which shows how the film would look. "Mi Familia" (10 minutes) allows the team members to talk about their families and how the filmmakers approached the family in the film. "Dante" (6 minutes) examines Miguel's odd canine sidekick. "How to Draw a Skeleton" (3 minutes) is exactly what it sounds like.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long