Director: Lee Unkrich
Voice Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Renée Victor, Edward James Olmos, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Jaime Camil, and Alanna Ubach.
If this is the afterlife that awaits, we have nothing to fear.
Pixar’s Coco tells the story of Miguel (Gonzalez), a Mexican kid who dreams of being a famous musician, despite his family’s ban on music. In an attempt to prove his musical talents, Miguel steals a guitar belonging to his departed icon, Ernesto De La Cruz (Bratt) and finds himself trapped in The Land Of The Dead, where he comes face-to-face with his deceased ancestors and a trickster skeleton called Hector (Bernal).
Over the years, Pixar has produced more than a few beautiful and heartbreaking animations, most of which examine a specific ideal and teach the audience a valuable lesson. Toy Story made us appreciate friendship, Monsters, Inc. showed us that laughter is stronger than fear, and Finding Nemo taught us to keep swimming, even if life kinda sucks. In many ways, Coco shares the same themes as each of these movies, but the life-lesson is infinitely more powerful. With Coco, Pixar is telling us to never forget what’s right in front of us and to cherish family, both alive and dead.
Looking beyond the deeper message buried within the film, Coco also succeeds in telling a heartfelt, entertaining, and fun story. The adventure that Miguel is thrown into is one that comes with a lot of surprising twists and turns, as well as a few emotional reunions and sincere interactions. As with most of Pixar’s animated movies, this is an extremely kid-friendly film, but there’s plenty for adults to enjoy, especially in the more emotional sequences.
Coco takes place during Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a celebration of remembrance for the loved ones that have passed away. From beginning to end, the film is immersed in Mexican culture, and while I won’t pretend to be any kind of expert, this setting gives Coco a unique and beautiful visual style. Every frame of animation bursts with stunning colour, whether you’re looking at the mind-blowing bridges that connect our world with the next, or the stunning Land of the Dead, there’s never a moment that doesn’t capture your attention. On a visual level, Coco is undoubtedly one of Pixar’s most impressive animations, especially when you look closely at the character models, which look shockingly realistic. That solid visual style provides a beautiful world to hold Miguel’s equally impressive adventure.
The visuals are accompanied by Michael Giacchino’s outstanding score, which is able to capture the wondrous elements of Miguel’s adventure and give life to the many different colours and animated characters on screen. Music plays a large role in the narrative and Miguel as a character, so without a score that perfectly captures the magic of the storytelling, Coco could’ve been dead on arrival.
As much as Pixar attempts to make each film unique, you commonly find similar characters and situations in each film, which is unfortunately where Coco falters. At various moments throughout the film, it seems as though the director has gone through a checklist and ticked off everything that needs to exist in a Pixar movie. You’ve got the adorable pet, the inevitable chase sequence, and the moral lesson. Of course, these aren’t negative things, but it would be great to see Pixar strive for more originality, instead of simply giving audiences what they expect.