Review: Coco Brings Death to Life

Written by Aaron Radcliff:

Pixar has been in a tad bit of a slump lately when it comes to their films. That’s not to say that their films haven’t been enjoyable or successful, but dating back to 2009, Pixar has prominently been riding the same beaten horse that all film companies have been: Sequels. Four of the nine films they’ve released (excluding this one) have been original films (Up, Brave, Inside Out, and The Good Dinosaur). And while each was at least a decent film, the only ones that really shook up the formula AND managed to truly compete with the sequels as far as financial success goes were Up and Inside Out. Pixar needs something new. They need something to recapture the awe that the brand can illicit while bringing in audiences of all ages. It needs Coco.

Coco tells the story of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy living in Mexico to a family of shoemakers. Due to the actions of his great-great-grandfather, music of any type has been banned, but that hasn’t stopped Miguel from secretly practicing to live out is dream of being a musician just like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). However, on Dia de Muertos, Miguel’s actions find him cursed and trapped inside the Land of the Dead. With the help of the ghostly Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) and the local street dog, Dante, they travel to find de la Cruz in order to get his blessing so Miguel can be sent back to the living world and right the mistakes he made that night or else he will be trapped in the afterlife forever.

Pixar has been known for being innovative with their computer animations, often helping spearhead newer technologies and animation styles, and it seems they’ve pulled out all of the stops for Coco. I can say that I’ve grown up with Pixar films (their first feature film, the first Toy Story, came out only ten months after my birth). With each film, they’ve pushed their animation boundaries, but nothing has felt so new and breathtaking since the first Finding Nemo. The colors alone showcase the care the creative team took in presenting imagery as authentic to Mexican culture as possible while the animators managed to make the supernatural aspects of the film enthralling and the realistic aspects as real as possible.

But what about the selling point of the movie: The music? While obviously playing an integral part to the plot of the movie, the music consistently lands with each song having its own soul adding to the events of the scene without the earworm-type repetition a lot of music-focused films dwell on. The songs stick with you, not because you can’t get them out of your head, but because you don’t want them out.

Coco manages to use its imagery and its music to bring so many different things together; the story of wanting to follow your dreams, forgiveness, and family gets its time to shine and is complimented by the the different visual and audio aspects. The visuals get their moment in the spotlight, as do the music and story. No one thing is overbearing. It manages to tell a complete story that makes it one of the most heartfelt movies Pixar has ever made. Not just in recent memory, I mean in their entire filmography.

Coco truly has it all: a simple but loving story with messages that both children, teens, and adults can relate to, visuals that will keep your jaw on the floor, and music as infectious as there can be.

Doesn’t entirely make up for the nearly 20-minute Frozen Christmas mini-movie Disney insisted on putting before this, but regardless, Coco is certainly worth seeing this Thanksgiving weekend.

Score: 9 out of 10

Photo via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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