Coco Review

Known for imagination and creativity, Pixar has transported audiences of all ages to astonishing cinematic worlds with nearly every film on its resume. “Coco,” inspired by Mexican culture and the aesthetic of Dia de Muertos – the “Day of the Dead” holiday – is another gem in its crown, a six-year passion project stunningly realized, wonderfully immersive and emotionally resonant.

“Coco” begins with a predictably cliche family film premise but eventually evolves in unexpected ways and takes brave turns. Miguel (Anthony Gonzales) is a young boy in a family of shoemakers that for generations has sworn off music because Miguel’s great-great grandfather was a mariachi who abandoned his family to pursue his dream. Naturally, music is the thing Miguel loves most; he aspires to be as great as his idol, legendary singer Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). When his family discovers his hidden passion during the celebration of Dia de Muertos, it goes poorly, and Miguel somehow finds himself in Land of the Dead on a quest with his dreams at stake.

Pixar’s trademark innovation immediately kicks into gear once Miguel moves over to the spiritual plane in which only the souls of the dead exist. He meets his ancestors and other skeletal figures, including the jovial drifter Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), and a host of brightly colored spirit animals. But as much as the Land of the Dead ironically dazzles with vibrant life, all of it is built on a foundation of family and remembrance. These souls can only existence in this world as long as they are remembered, and they can only cross into the land of the living on Dia de Muertos if their photo is on someone’s ofrenda (altar).

So the film’s main song, “Remember Me,” has more powerful connotations than Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez’s simple melody and sweet lyrics suggest. Director Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”) and co-director Adrian Molina weave these deeper themes into the very fabric of the film’s imaginative conceit and the payoff is at least as moving if not more than “WALL*E” and “Up.”

The story also isn’t shy on dark notes and heartbreaking moments. There are some mature themes and a palpable sense of familial conflict, with characters who have strong values such as family or pursuing one’s dreams who make poor choices despite these values and intentions. “Coco” sends powerful messages when these choices come to bear on the plot.

Although Pixar chooses to dip back into the well of its first original creative successes a little too often, films like “Coco” prove that its spirit of ingenuity is alive and well. Granted, Unkrich and his team had to dig deeper, steeping themselves in a culture and new ideas in order to unearth something both original and universal. These kinds of successes may become more sparse over time as unique storytelling territory becomes harder and harder to come by, but with time and energy, “Coco” proves anything is possible.


4.5/5 Stars


Directed by Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina (co-director)
Written by Adrian Molina & Matthew Aldrich (screenplay), Lee Unkrich, Jason Katz
Starring: (voices) Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach


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