Director: Lee Unkrich
Cast: Anthony Gonzales, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach
Plot: While pursuing a music career his stubborn family don’t approve of, Miguel (Gonzales) is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead, where he has until sunrise to return from.
It is almost redundant to review a Pixar movie. More often than not, I am merely copying and pasting my thoughts on the last film. Pixar have taken a unique culture or angle of life rarely thought of and given it a fresh lease of life. They have stunning animation with breath-taking visuals right down to the smallest of details, yet still have put the script and story first and foremost. We very rarely get a phoned in product from the top animation company going.
Yet, surely in copying the same formula, the films must get stale eventually. However, Pixar view each project with such a new lease of life, getting bored with the way the animation studio does thing seems highly improbable. Coco has us in the palm of its hand from the first few moments, a prologue told through the use of decorations in the street, a magical piece of animation and direction, that proves that there is always a new angle to tell a story from. While the story builds up to its point, Pixar make do with impressing an audience with animation so real that moments feel like we aren’t watching an animated adventure at all. The precision used in bringing the Mexican Day of the Dead festival is also riveting, bringing a colourful zest of life to the beautiful piece of foreign traditions. Anyone who had qualms about a festival about the dead being morbid should put their minds at ease, Pixar nailing the sense that there is nothing sinister about celebrating the past. As Miguel finds connections with his great great grandparents, the power of family screams out of the narrative at every angle. However, Pixar are not just about breaking down a foreign culture to understandable chunks for an international audience, but in throwing their own imagination into the works. While the opening of Coco feels like Walt Disney’s M.O, as soon as we cross into the glorious afterlife scenes, we are well and truly in Pixar’s remit. Their creativity explodes from every angle as they have fun, painting what life must be like for the dead. The idea of a passport control monitoring the dead crossing over into the Land of the Living is an amusing thought, as well as the beautiful colour design splayed into the majestic city the Dead live in. There is also a clever story beat, where the dead fade away, essentially a second death, if they are forgotten by the living. Not only does this create a sense of tension and much-needed stakes (the fact that the heroes of this story are already dead would have taken a lot of the thrills out of the adventure otherwise), but there is also a tragic unnecessary inevitability to this fate. Everyone is forgotten eventually, but they don’t have to be, if the living paid more attention to their ancestors. You wonder if Coco was sponsored by family tree research companies. What follows is an exciting adventure with some decent twists, exciting chase sequences as well as the odd catchy song. The Greatest Showman looked set to pick up the Best Original Song at the OSCARs this year, but Coco might have swaggered in to snatch it from P. T Barnum at the last minute.
But Coco doesn’t truly show its true colours until the final twenty minutes. The film as a whole is definitely a strong entry from Pixar, but that stale weight is arguably sinking in. Perhaps, like Up, the lack of a more obvious quirk like living toys or talking fish will stop it from being a truly memorable classic. Maybe the individual set-pieces are just lacking compared to the consistently amusing Finding Nemo or Inside Out. However, Coco has a delightful sting in its tail. As the final few scenes crop up, Miguel coming home to the titular great grandmother, Pixar give us one of the most touching scenes they have come out with. Up clinches the win for most emotional Pixar moment, but this one amazing segment in Coco is a close second. We are blessed to exist at the same time as Pixar animation studios.
Final Verdict: Reviewing Pixar might be getting redundant, but that isn’t to say that they are anything less than truly amazing.