You can usually trust Pixar to deliver a good movie – the question is really whether the animation studio’s latest film is a great one. Fortunately, Coco is one of Pixar’s best.
I loved this movie. It was colourful, vibrant, fun, thematically rich and moving. I saw it with three others, all adults, and all four us got misty eyed at some point – and I could tell we were not the only ones.
The story follows Miguel, a young lad with music in his heart but whose family have barred him from all musical pursuits – instead demanding he follow the family tradition of being a shoemaker. This does not sit well with Miguel, who wishes to be a musician just like his deceased great-great-grandfather.
On the ‘Día de los Muertos’ (the Day of the Dead, the celebrated Mexican holiday on which day family and friends come together to remember those who have passed away), Miguel seeks to enter a music competition. What follows is a series of events that ultimately leads to Miguel being transported to the land of the dead, in a sequence which reminded me of Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award winning masterpiece Spirited Away – specifically when Chihiro becomes trapped in the spirit world.
Indeed, it is not a stretch to call Coco Pixar’s Spirited Away. The films share a number of similarities, from the premise of a young person who becomes trapped in a strange but wondrous and vividly realised world to the gorgeous animation. Coco draws deep of Mexican culture and tradition, telling a story with key lessons about the importance of family, following one’s dreams and remembering the past. Like all of Pixar’s best, Coco will play well with and has something for all ages to appreciate.
Coco also boasts a great soundtrack. It is not a musical in the vein of Disney’s The Lion King or Frozen, but it does have a few great songs that organically weave into the film’s plot. There is ‘Remember Me’ which has received the pop cover treatment for the film’s credits (like Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ and Moana’s ‘How Far I’ll Go’), and which will probably be the song the movie is most remembered for, but my favourite is another track sung by Miguel’s voice actor Anthony Gonzalez. The voice cast is uniformly excellent, Gonzalez in particular demonstrates a wide range, with composer Michael Giacchino (The Incredibles, Up) rounding out the stunning soundscape.
I only have one gripe, and it is incredibly minor: there is a brief bit of upfront backstory and context that is conveyed via narration, which I felt could have been handled more naturally – it then took about five to ten minutes of scene setting before I was wholly on board with the film. This issue aside, I cannot recommend Coco enough – it is the best animated feature of the year and one of Pixar’s very best.