When I saw the first trailer for Coco from Disney and Pixar, I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about it and I was afraid that I would compare it to the 2014 animated film The Book of Life. I have to say that not only am I not comparing this movie to the other but whatever comparisons I had went away as soon as the movie began.
Coco is about a young boy named Miguel who comes from a family of shoemakers who have shunned any forms of music because his great-great grandfather left the family to pursue a music career leaving behind his great-great grandmother and his great grandma Coco. Miguel doesn’t want to be a shoemaker and secretly starts pursuing his passion for music by learning from one of Mexico’s greatest singer/songwriter/actors: Ernesto de la Cruz. When Miguel finds out that there is a talent show at music square on the Day of the Dead, he tries to enter it only to be stopped by his family. Determined to make it big and do something with his life, Miguel runs from his family and breaks into the mausoleum of Ernesto de la Cruz to steal his guitar and win the talent show. As soon as Miguel takes the guitar he is transported to the Land of the Dead, where he enlists the help of Hector a con-man to get him back to the land of the living.
The writing in Coco is top notch and I have to give credit to director Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3) and writers Adrian Molina, Jason Katz and Matthew Aldrich. Not only do they deliver a fun and emotional story but one steeped in Mexican history and folklore. One can tell that they did their homework and it pays off in a grand fashion. Like with Toy Story 3, Coco is very emotional at its heart and delivers a strong message about family and acceptance of others and pursuing your passions in a responsible way. Another great thing about this movie is that the most of the cast is of Mexican heritage which delivers and authentic feel to the story.
The acting in this film is also top notch, everyone brings their A-game and never once lets go. Anthony Gonzalez is fantastic in providing the voice of Miguel and is very believable in not only his execution of lines but execution of emotion. Benjamin Bratt also does a great job as Ernesto de la Cruz and is a pretty good singer. The stand out for me is Gael Garcia Bernal as Hector. Bernal embodies the con-man and delivers a funny and emotional performance that will have you in tears when he is at his most vulnerable.
When it comes to the animation, it is another home run for Pixar but it also pushes some limits. The animators always seem to find new ways to push the animation further. It is remarkable to see how fluid the movements of Dante’s tongue are which reminds me of the work the animators did with Hank in Finding Dory. Another feat of animation is when Miguel or Hector or de la Cruz plays the guitar you can see every chord and note played. When the character plays a chord they are actually playing that chord. The Land of the Dead is gorgeous and striking. It looks like a bustling metropolis from the 1930’s-1940’s. The vehicles look like they belong from that era and the architecture is stunning. From the sharp angles of the city to the sweeping curves of de la Cruz’s mansion everything that is shown belongs there. I just wish I could have spent more time in that world. Also keep your eyes open for any Pixar Easter eggs in the film because they are sprinkled throughout.
This brings us to the music of the film. The score composed by Michael Giacchino (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Incredibles) is beautiful and has a grand sense of adventure while also feeling small enough in scope for the more intimate moments. There is even an original song in the film called “Remember Me” which pops up a few times in the movie as a joke but it also serves as two big emotional moments of the film in a flashback and also at the end. “Remember Me” is one of those original songs that will not only stick with you immediately after the movie but will carry on with you like “Let it Go” from Frozen and “You’re Welcome” from Moana.
Coco is another example of Pixar storytelling at its best and deserves to be in the top 5 of the Pixar movies. It is very funny and emotional and is worth seeing in a theater not only for the animation but for the scope and size as well.
4.5 guitars out of 5.