Pixar proves with its 19th feature film that not only has it not lost its touch, it’s getting better. In what may just be the most diverse ‘toon they have tackled yet, Coco takes us right from the heart of Mexico’s talent show Dia de Muertos to the Land of the Dead, where 12-year-old Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) gets some major life lessons from the deceased.
Miguel is a young boy obsessed with music and playing the guitar in the tradition of his great great grandfather, who unfortunately ditched his family in pursuit of his own musical career. That has made music a non-starter with subsequent generations of the family who have banned it in all forms as they continue their own more modest business as cobblers. Secretly, Miguel gets a guitar and goes for it anyway as he idolizes the late great Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), who died young but not before becoming a legend. Miguel focuses on playing Ernesto’s biggest hit, “Remember Me,” which is a recurring theme throughout the film, and he plans to play it at the Dia de Muertos show before his family gets wind of it and smashes his guitar to bits.
Determined, Miguel breaks into the de la Cruz mausoleum, takes Ernesto’s blessed guitar and soon finds he has awakened a curse that sends him, and his faithful canine sidekick Dante, hurling into the Land of the Dead, where he meets the skeletal remains of many relatives and has to prove himself worthy to get back home.
There’s a bit of the spirit of The Wizard of Oz in this premise, but it is all done in a distinctly Pixarian manner. Along the way Miguel hooks up with Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), a con man who helps him out in his quest. It is quite an adventure that director Lee Unkrich (Oscar winner for Toy Story 3) and co-director Adrian Molina have cooked up from a script by Molina and Matthew Aldrich and story by Unkrich, Jason Katz, Molina and Aldrich.
As I say in my video review above, in terms of execution, this is one of the most visually dazzling efforts yet from Pixar which just seem to keep topping itself. It is colorful, musical and just plain fun, finding endless reservoirs of humor to be mined from the skeletal state of the dead that Miguel and Dante meet along the way. These creative forces manage to come up with every gag you can think of when it comes to skeletons, but it is done in a lighthearted way and not like the darker tones of The Nightmare Before Christmas. It also is done more successfully than a similarly themed animated effort, The Book of Life. (Dante, by the way, is yet another lovable Disney dog, but a complete joy on the screen — let the merchandise sales begin.)
Also a big plus is Michael Giacchino’s flavorful score, as well as the songs, particularly “Remember Me” from Frozen’s Oscar winners Bobby Lopez and Christine Anderson-Lopez. More so than any previous Pixar outing, this one has a unique flavor that should expand the brand’s audience even further — if that is possible. Every frame is filled with visual splendor that lifts Coco (the title refers to the matriarch of the family, who is prominently featured in a photo that provides the heart of a mystery). You can’t ask for much more from a holiday treat then this one. Producer is Darla K. Anderson. Disney releases on Wednesday.
Do you plan to see Coco? Let us know what you think.