Pixar may not be the animation juggernaut they used to be after Disney sucked them dry, but Coco proves they’ve still got plenty of magic left in the tank. Even if their next two films are going to be sequels.
Coco (2017) is an animated adventure film created by Pixar Animation Studios and directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina. It stars Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel, a young and aspiring musician struggling with his family’s generation-long ban on music. However, after stealing his great-great grandfather’s guitar, Miguel is transported to the Land of the Dead and must find his ancestor in order to return home.
Cars 3 earlier this year may have made the impression of a muffled whimper, but Coco has not only debuted to stellar box office around the world, but has become the highest grossing film (in peso) in Mexico’s history. And its all well deserved. Coco proves what Pixar can achieve at the height of their powers, and is potentially another modern masterpiece in their filmography.
I feel like a broken record every time a new animated movie comes out, but this film is a a legitimate Dia de los Muertos feast for the eyes. Its astonishing that even 22 years after their debut Pixar is still continuing to improve their animation and the rich colours, particle effects and striking character designs burst with as much life and imagination as they did decades ago. The design is also imbued with a distinctly cultural flavour that – according to how much Mexico loves this film – is truly faithful to the Day of the Dead and the rich mythos that surrounds it. Its a special film that can allow audiences a richly-realised glimpse into an unfamiliar tradition and to have it come across so clearly and authentically in Coco is a testament to its quality.
Just as this is a distinctly Mexican setting, Coco‘s story owes a heavy debt to the customs and ideas of Dia de los Muertos. Family, tradition, remembrance and death are all interwoven into a clear and effective story that works just as well for kids as it does for their parents. The one negative I can say about the story is that the Disney/Pixar formula is a little too obvious here, thus making the plot a little too easy to predict, which unfortunately spoils a bit of the magic and surprise. But this is a formula that still works wonders and its hard not to get swept up in the powerful emotion and raw ideas that Pixar continues to excel at.
And the music! Ahh, listening to it days after I saw the film and it still brings a tear to my eye. Not only is the music integral to the plot unlike most other Pixar films, its distinctly Mexican just like everything else and is to surely snag up most of the original song accolades as awards season comes around. On top of the actual songs is a score by Michael Giacchino, a Pixar vet at this point, that captures the cultural stylings of the film while keeping the tone a mix of sweetness and drama that Pixar thrives off.
I haven’t even touched on the performances yet. According to reports, lead Anthony Gonzalez wasn’t even supposed to be the lead – he performed the temp voice for the script but ended up fitting so well that he was promoted to the star of a worldwide Pixar smash. What a promotion, and well deserved considering the stellar job he does. Pixar in general has always been fantastic in finding the best voices for their roles irrespective of the actor’s name status and this can be seen throughout Coco’s whole cast. There’s nary a bad performance amongst it, and they’re all distinctly latino and with excellent singing voices (which turns out to be rather important).
Aside from a little too much predictability, I have very little bad to say about Coco. It’ll make you cry, soar and laugh all in less than two hours and it just proves that Pixar still has plenty left to give. Only time will tell if it takes its place around Pixar’s upper echelon, but at this moment, Coco is an afterlife experience to die for.
General Audiences: Must-see
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
True Believers (Pixar): Must-see
Cinema-sobbers: Highly Recommended