Directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina.
Featuring the voice talents of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor, and Edward James Olmos.
Young Miguel dreams of being a musician and is determined to compete in the talent competition at the Dia De Los Muertos celebrations. Despite his family’s ban on music, his determination to be a musician like his hero, famous singer Ernesto de la Cruz, takes him into the Land Of The Dead, where he finds that the connection between the two of them might be closer than he’d ever thought.
After the less than effusive reception to Cars 3, Pixar has scored a double whammy – its first original and first non-sequel since The Good Dinosaur in 2015 – with the arrival of Coco. It’s a film that demonstrates just what the studio can do both in terms of animation and storytelling – and it blows you away.
Don’t go thinking that the Coco of the title is the boy with the guitar. He’s not, but one of the film’s strengths is that his – Miguel’s (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) – coming of age story also has his great-grandmother Coco’s (the voice of Ana Ofelia Murguria) life story woven into its very fabric. This is a film that celebrates so much, in particular music and the family with all its generations, and brings everything together in the brilliant colours of the Dia De Los Muertos. It’s the day when Mexican families pay tribute to their deceased relatives, building shrines to them bedecked with photographs, food and beloved objects so that on that day, and that day alone, the dead come back to visit the living. And, for those not familiar with the tradition, it’s explained in some detail, to the extent that the dead live in their own separate world for the other 364 days of the year.
It’s a gloriously vibrant and colourful place, populated by skeletons, all recognisable as the living people they once were and wearing the same clothes, but with white faces and huge, dark eye sockets. And, when Miguel arrives, courtesy of a little Pixar style magic, this is where his personal journey really starts, discovering the reason why his family is so anti music and meeting his long-time hero, Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt), the best musician ever to come out of Mexico. Guiding him through this strange yet familiar land – although, as he discovers, it doesn’t have any rest rooms! – is the loveable Hector (the voice of Gael Garcia Bernal) who, as it inevitably turns out, is more than just an endearing rogue.
Music is the lifeblood of the film. While there aren’t enough songs to truly describe Coco as a musical, they pulsate with those essential Mexican rhythms. And there is always, but always, music in the background, making the experience even more joyful, underlining the film’s feel good factor and helping it to pull off that delicate tightrope act of balancing comedy and heartfelt emotion.
All the family values that go hand in hand with a Disney movie are there, but what makes the film even more powerful is its portrayal of older people, especially older women. Coco herself is gnarled and wrinkled, sat quietly in a world of her own, wondering when her papa is coming home. Her daughter, Miguel’s strict grandmother Abuelita (voiced by Renee Victor), won’t allow music in the house and will do anything to stop it – including smashing the boy’s guitar. Yet it’s all because she cares for her grandson and her family. Passionately. This is no soft focus portrait of older women but one where they are the lynchpin of the family and beloved by everybody.
Coco is easily the best offering from Pixar since runaway winner, Inside Out (2015), which makes comparisons inevitable. If the new kid on the block doesn’t quite reach the same levels of imaginative brilliance as its illustrious predecessor, it hardly seems to matter. As a cinematic experience, it’s a visual feast with characters that capture your heart and a story that makes it sing. A lump in the throat is the least you can expect when the final scenes come along.
Coco is released in the UK on January 19th.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Freda Cooper. Follow me on Twitter.