Dir. Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach.
Pixar are pretty much unmatched in the field of animation. Their back catalogue is filled with certified classics. In recent years there have been complaints that the studio has suffered a dip in quality, with the amount of sequels being singled out as the problem, but even when Pixar are below their usual high standards, they are still head and shoulders above their peers. For every Monsters University there is a Toy Story 3, and for every Good Dinosaur there is a Inside Out. Going into Coco, you can only hope that this measures up against those gems.
Coco is the story of Miguel, a Mexican boy who feels that he is cursed as his family has banned music, and he loves music. When they thwart his plans to play a talent show during the Day Of The Dead, he attempts to steal his deceased hero’s guitar. He believes his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz, is his great great grandad, the man who left his wife and baby, and set off the families hatred of music. The Day Of The Dead is a festival in which the deceased can pass back into the land of the living, but when Miguel steals the guitar he enters into the Land Of The Dead. He will be trapped there permanently unless he gets the blessing of his dead relatives, but they won’t give it to him unless he refuses to play music ever again. This leads Miguel to enlist the help of Hector, a man who is being forgotten by his last relative which will lead to his second death, to get him to Ernesto so he can get a blessing and still play music.
Coco is a gorgeous movie. The world building, the use of green, purple and orange hues creating a vibrant colour palette, and the look of the characters. It’s astonishing that 18 years on from Toy Story, animation has progressed this much. It’s jaw-dropping what Pixar have managed to achieve in this movie. Other animation houses don’t even come close. There are times when you question if what you are seeing is completely computer generated or not, it is that photo-realistic. There is so much fun to be had in exploring the Land Of The Dead as well. The way the world is built is fantastic, it’s intriguing, innovative, and intricate.
Music is an integral part of the film. There was remit for this to go so wrong. The mariachi Disney fan fare at the beginning is as close as this film gets to pastiche, and the rest of the musical sequences are so heartfelt, honest, and true, the songs become the emotional back bone of the movie, and this is an emotional movie. The same can be said about the way the Mexican culture is used, the obvious affection shining through in every frame.
Pixar have dealt with death before, but here it is a central theme, along with legacy, family, and the old chestnut of being yourself. If you’re not crying by the end of the movie you’re a colder person than me. Unkrich and Molina also have fun in subverting some of your expectations. Ernesto’s message of seizing your moment, which Miguel puts so much stock in, turning sinister by the end, adding another dimension to a film that could have been very by the numbers. The set-up, whilst complicated, leads to a very simple plot, but this is a kids movie, and yes, Pixar have used this outline before, but who cares when it looks as good as this, and still resonates hard on every level.
Coco is another classic in the Pixar library. A film about family, and the memories you leave behind. This take its place next to Inside Out, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and the Toy Story Trilogy as some of the finest modern day animations. It will thrill the kids and delight the parents. Sitting through the trailers for other animated movies that are being aimed at young audiences, and it’s almost laughable how far ahead Pixar are. They treat all their audience members with respect and intelligence, and fill their movies with genuine love and affection. Looking at the OSCAR nominations for Best Animated Picture, and seeing Coco sitting next to The Boss Baby really highlights how far behind everyone else is.