Disney/Pixar has maintained a level of excellence for years, with classics like Toy Story, Wall-E, and The Incredibles, but it hasn’t always been sunshine an rainbows. Since the release of Toy Story 3 in 2010, Pixar has stumbled. With the exception of Inside Out and Finding Dory, the majority of their films have felt somewhat forgettable. Which is why I was so overjoyed that Pixar’s Coco was such an entertaining and touching family experience. It combined color, culture and music in a way that’ll keep you hooked from start to finish. And best of all, the songs are actually pretty catchy – we’ve all had enough of the “Let It Go” movement at this point. Am I right?
Pixar’s latest movie tells the story of 12-year-old Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), who has a dream of becoming a famous singer/guitarist like his idol and Mexican legend, Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt). Unfortunately Miguel’s family has forbidden music of any kind and would rather see him follow in the footsteps of his ancestors – the shoemakers. As you can imagine, Miguel has difficulty accepting this, especially after learning the reason his family forbid music involves his hero, de la Cruz. Fed up with his family’s rules, Miguel runs away, only to be swept up by a series of magical events that transport him to “The Land of the Dead.” This takes Miguel on a coming-of-age journey to uncover the mystery behind his family’s hatred of music and his connection to de la Cruz.
While his name is new to me, Anthony Gonzalez is now officially on my radar. I was really taken aback by how charismatic and passionately contagious Miguel’s love of music was conveyed throughout the film – it made for a extremely memorable performance. Children are really going to relate to and sympathize with Miguel’s desire and passion for performing. I also thought the connection between Miguel and Dante (street dog) was significant, because it provided numerous hilarious and touching moments that were pivotal to Miguel’s growth throughout his journey in “The Land of the Dead.”
The other major character –Hector (voiced by Gael Garcia Bernal), introduced in “The Land of the Dead” — is the hilariously pathetic but lovable friend of Miguel. Hector comes across very selfish initially, but Miguel’s spirit wins him over and Hector vows to help him meet Ernesto de la Cruz, regardless of how that affects his future in the ‘The Land of the Dead.” Much like Miguel, Hector shows an incredible amount of growth throughout the film, learning to forgive, trust and even care for someone other than himself.
I was extremely impressed with the level of animation and detail that went into the creation of Coco. The animators made both Saint Cecilla and “The Land of the Dead” feel so authentic – from the culture to colors, Coco was visually exceptional. You could tell that they took time to learn and study Mexican culture before finishing the script. It brought realness to the story that I haven’t felt since Ratatouille. As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of musicals, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed all the sining and music, most notability “Un Poco Loco” and “Remember Me.” The music fit the tone of the film perfectly, capturing the uplifting spirit and cultural beauty that made the movie such a joy.
I’ve been a big fan of animated movies since I was young and Pixar is responsible for a large portion of that admiration. Coco is the perfect example of everything that makes a Pixar movie so special. It was colorful, funny, relatable and above all else, entertaining. Coco message was all about importance of family and tradition, and it couldn’t have been more beautifully conveyed. The writers did a wonderful job telling a story that dealt with the concept of death and turned it into something so heartwarmingly magnificent. Coco will bring a tear to your eye and a smile to your face. I’d highly recommend it!