Pixar’s 19th film in their game-changing and historic slate of films adds another name to the Pixar family, and that is the Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina directed, Coco.
Pixar Studios has dominated the animation side of Hollywood’s medium ever since their debut in 1995’s Toy Story that changed the way animated films were made ever since. Introducing the world to Tom Hanks’ Woody and Tim Allen’s Buzz was just the first of many characters that would make up their decorated cast of characters. Now, modern audiences full of spry toddlers and even adults filled with the drive to hold on to their childhood have fallen in love with a new generation of characters. Including the likes of Ratatouille’s Remy, Cars’ Lightning McQueen, Joy and Sadness (whom of which have always been with us since birth), and now they can add Coco’s Miguel to that mix.
Miguel is a 12-year-old boy who seeks to be a musician just like his role model Ernesto Del La Cruz, despite his family’s ban on music. Voiced wonderfully by Anthony Gonzalez and partnered with a voice cast full of Hispanic males and females. Understanding that the entire cast is Hispanic and the inclusion of Molina in the director’s chair means that Pixar understands the importance of culture and what it means to those people. Coco is a celebration of the Hispanic culture and their celebration of Dia De Los Muertos. Where family members who have passed on are invited back into the real world to celebrate life with them. In the earliest moments of Coco, the small town in Mexico is brought to life with the brick paths connecting the plaza to the casas where families are housed. Ninõs chase each other up and down the streets, abuelitas shoo off stray dogs with their shoes, and mariachi bands blare their trumpets to make sweet music that rings true to our ears. You can almost smell the chicken enchiladas baking in the kitchen. It’s an inspired and beautifully animated corner of our world that brings Mexico to life in a dazzling fashion.
It isn’t until we reach the land of the dead though where Pixar’s true vision comes to life. Even though every character outside of Miguel is the only ones without skin on their bone, these characters are beautifully detailed. From their unique clothing and traits that have successfully transferred over from the land of the living to the land of the dead. Pixar has the ability to fill so many inanimate objects or lifeless objects with life and Coco is no different. Pixar has an ability to make you resonate with the most unexpected of objects, vehicles, or intangible beings and it’s what makes this studio so special. They constantly whisk you away into worlds full of colorful adventures that are baked with a solid threshold, coated in images that appeal to children, and then send messages that act as a shockwave to your emotional core. After the perfectly fine Cars 3, Finding Dory, and middle of the road The Good Dinosaur, Pixar is completely back on track to making films that have defined them as a studio.
Coco is a fully fleshed out and realized project unlike The Good Dinosaur, original as can be despite the complaints that it’s too much like The Book of Life aesthetically and not a pointless sequel to make a quick million dollars. Coco is an Oscar Contender and practically a shoe-in for Best Animated Picture in a down year for animated films. It’s the type of film that reminds audiences just how special movies can be. A magical experience full of beautiful characters and new worlds that beg to be revisited as time passes on. Characters that resonate on every conceivable level and have to go through hardships that convey themes that affect all of us as an audience. Coco, despite some familiar plotting, deus ex machinas, and a bit too on the nose in the third act is an animated film that begs to be seen on the biggest screen imaginable. For any one person a part of this culture, they’ll probably end up in tears as they witness their people brought to life respectably and admirably. Coco celebrates life and life beyond death. How heartbreaking, emotional, joyful, and devastating it can be, with it’s inspiring images, touching music, and lovable characters. Coco is a film to die for, and a film worth revisiting time after time to bring you back to life.