While the American Thanksgiving holiday usually brings a few big movies that draw out fatigued Black Friday shoppers and families who can’t stand to be around one another any longer, this year only offers one new wide release. Last week’s ‘Justice League’ and ‘Wonder’ should hold over well, while Sony’s animated holiday movie is bound to get pushed to the backburner by Disney/Pixar’s latest.
2014 delivered Hollywood’s first mainstream Day of the Dead animated feature with ‘The Book of Life’, which was the box office equivalent of a dud firecracker. Now, Pixar takes a crack at bringing the Mexican holiday to the big screen. Unfortunately, the studio has done very little to make it stand apart from the earlier movie, including using the same moral dilemma for the main character.
Just like ‘The Book of Life’, ‘Coco‘ tells the story of a boy who wants to leave his family’s business for a dream of playing la guitarra and singing. On Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), his passion separates him from his living family and takes him to the afterlife, where he ultimately offends his dead family with his love of music. In a race against the clock, he needs to get the blessing of a special family member in order to return to the land of the living. If not, he’ll be trapped in the land of the dead forever. The convoluted plot hinges on what I call “The Bing Bong Dilemma” – i.e., if you’re in the land of the dead for too long without anyone remembering you, you’ll irreversibly cease to exist. The resulting movie is long, occasionally slow and a little tedious, but when it works, it works really well.
My warning for parents is that ‘Coco’ runs a slow 110 minutes. When you tack on showing up a few minutes early, a dozen trailers and the 22-minute short ‘Olaf’s Frozen Adventure’ that precedes it, you’re looking at having a two-and-a-half hour experience with your kids in a theater. Depending on how well your children do with sitting for long periods of time, you might want to think long and hard about taking them to see ‘Coco’ now or waiting until Blu-ray.
On the indie front, we have Focus Features’ four-screen release of the Oscar hopeful ‘Darkest Hour‘. The Winston Churchill bio-pic comes to us from excellent filmmaker Joe Wright. A makeup-heavy Gary Oldman plays the Bulldog in a role that aims to land him an Oscar nomination. The cast includes Lily James, Ben Mendelsohn and Kristin Scott Thomas.
In addition, something called ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas‘ is opening on an unlisted number of screens. The PG movie tells the story of how Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) came to write the most revered Christmas story, ‘A Christmas Carol’. The supporting cast includes Christopher Plummer and Jonathan Pryce.
Finally, despite a weak limited release last week, the Denzel Washington legal drama ‘Roman J. Israel, Esq.‘ will expand to 1,500 screens.
[Editor’s Note: Due to the holiday, we’ve given the site staff a break from doing a Roundtable this week. Have a great weekend. We’ll see you back here next week. -JZ]