Since making history with Toy Story, Pixar have gone on to create a filmography full of visually breathtaking and feature length and short projects. They are a studio of innovation and imagination; their films have a child-like glee and yet are structured with sophistication and poignant connection. From the married life montage in Up (still, perhaps, Pixar’s finest moment) to the triumphant action of The Incredibles, Pixar have offered us such an array of exciting, ambitious and staggering moments that it is rather a shame (some would say unfair) that they have in recent years attained a reputation for being more hit and miss.
After all, the studio’s only real failure was Cars 2 and even if they have detoured a tad into sequels and prequels a little more of late, the studio still has the power to floor and with Coco, we see Pixar deliver their best since Inside Out. Pre-release Coco was dogged by claims that it was a rip-off of The Book Of Life and while there are undeniably a few similarities, Coco is a much more emotional work and one that reminds a little of Moana, in how it tells an inspiring coming of age story with a great respect and a celebratory presentation of its chosen culture.
Young Mexican boy Miguel harbours a hidden passion for music, as he idolises late film/music star Ernesto de la Cruz. However his family see music as a curse, due to an unfortunate ancestral occurrence many decades ago. Miguel cannot ignore his calling though and, after a disagreement with his family, runs away to chase his musical dreams but one ill-judged decision sees the living boy enter the surprisingly vibrant land of the dead and he must find a way to return the world of the living before sunset, or else he will be trapped there forever. A task Miguel will soon find is easier said than done, as this adventure takes him to some unexpected discoveries.
Much like Laika’s Kubo and the Two Strings, Coco is a very spiritual film that has much to say about the power of memories and passing on tales of your family and while Coco is not quite as masterful as the aforementioned, it is a film that can proudly stand as another Pixar classic. Visually popping with colour and brimming with imagination, Coco is a lovely film that wholly admires the culture it borrows from and will speak to many a viewer on a personal level. Initially, it takes a little while for the plot to get going but by the second half (which, like a reverse Wall-e effect, is simply immaculate) and a tear-jerking climax (with one scene in particular that ranks up there as one of the studio’s most touching) you grasp the full brilliance of Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich’s screenplay.
Coco is a film that talks about the imperfection of choices and how it is never too late to build/mend bridges and its plot, while seeming to go down a far more comical and joyous route, shocks you with a double-barrelled twist that delves into darker territory than the studio is used to. That being said, the heart of the film never wavers and this is an adventure that is bursting with fun. One of the most enjoyable elements being the film’s incredible soundtrack, which is full of magnificent songs and scoring by Michael Giacchino, that highlight the film’s central ideal of music being a powerful conduit for remembrance and joy.
The characters are fantastic, with young Miguel being brought to life by the gorgeous animation and a wonderful vocal performance by Anthony Gonzalez, as he creates a strong and compassionate central figure that learns from his mistakes. There are also a whole host of excellent supporting characters, most impressive are the down on his luck land of the dead inhabitant Héctor (Gael García Bernal), the assertive Imelda Rivera (Alanna Ubach), Benjamin Bratt’s musical icon Ernesto de la Cruz (a homage to the roots of Spanish language cinema) and Miguel’s great grandmother Mamá Rivera (Ana Ofelia Murguía).
Coco is just a beautiful film that presents death as an adventure that is as big as life. We dare you not to cry, laugh or furiously tap that foot to “Un Poco Loco”!
COCO / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: LEE UNKRICH / SCREENPLAY: ADRIAN MOLINA, MATTHEW ALDRICH/ STARRING: ANTHONY GONZALEZ, GAEL GARCÍA BERNAL, BENJAMIN BRATT / RELEASE DATE: 19TH JANUARY
Expected Rating: 8/10