Disney and Pixar’s newest effort ‘Coco’ was everything I wanted (and expected) from the moneymaking animation studio. It is, at times, funny, well-animated in every detail, bright, colorful, and even heartbreaking. Not since 2015’s ‘Inside Out’ has Pixar made quite an impact on my movie-going experience to the point where I want to revisit its bright and beautiful world; it seemed that after that animated masterpiece, the studio has not seemed to match ‘Inside Out’ in terms of quality storytelling, even if they have not lost the stroke of the brush; ‘The Good Dinosaur’ was near forgettable and felt like other animated movies that have come before it; ‘Finding Dory’ did not live up to its emotional potential when compared to ‘Finding Nemo’; and ‘Cars 3’ was quite fine, but nothing to write home about. With ‘Coco’, it looks like Pixar is back in business; proving once again that they have what it takes to be the top dog in computer animation.
What an experience ‘Coco’ is! One must see to believe its beauty and get sucked into its splendor. When young Miguel Rivera (Voice of Anthony Gonzalez) first sees the mythical land of the dead, we are just as amazed as he is. Directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, and producer Darla K. Anderson (‘Toy Story 3’) have compared the land of the dead to Disney Land. Its scope and scale is a wonder! There is so much of this world to see that it makes the possibilities endless! In fact, “Breathtaking” is the right word to describe it! One can feel like he or she is there, if one were to feel immersed, the way Miguel was!
However, under all its beauty and bright colors is a story about family and self-discovery that we are sort of used to seeing in animation; (especially by Disney’s standards) yet in ‘Coco’, the themes are done with love, tenderness, and an understanding of the term “family”. ‘Coco’ is set on Dia de los Muertos; (Day of the Dead) a Mexican holiday in which, according to legend, families put up an altar called a “Ofrenda” filled with images of relatives who have long since passed in order for their spirits to return for a visit; the way these spirits visit in ‘Coco’ plays cleverly like an airport; X-ray scanner for confirmation and all, yet it also adds to the movie’s heart. We are introduced to Miguel, who gives us an upbringing on how his family put a ban on music and became shoemakers. Though, like most Disney heroes, Miguel has a different dream; he wants to be a musician like his idol: Ernesto de la Cruz, (Voice of Benjamin Bratt) a famed musician and actor. Though his family especially his grandmother – (Voice of Renée Victor) – is not having any of it, wherein they try their best to shield him from any type of music outside their home.
This type of strict family upbringing brings Miguel to the point where he runs away and attempts to steal Ernesto de la Cruz’s legendary guitar from his tomb, only to inadvertently bring him and Dante, a dog he found on the street, to the Land of the Dead, where he runs into his dead relatives, who are shocked to see that he has crossed over. This causes problems since he cannot get their blessing (in the form of a Marigold petal) to chase his dream of becoming a musician like his great, great-grandfather. So he goes out in search of Ernesto to undo the curse and get his blessing.
Along the way, he runs into Hector, (Voice of Gael Garcia Bernal) who offers to help him in exchange for getting back to the land of the living. All I can say about Hector is that he is like Nick Wilde in ‘Zootopia’; a con man (or skeleton in Hector’s case) who strikes up a friendship with our hero for personal gain, albeit one with a tragic back story and a caring side. In a way, ‘Coco’ is Hector’s movie as much as it is Miguel’s, as both characters have their own motivations for their actions. Their friendship is how you mainly expect it to go for a Disney movie, yet done in a better way.
I cannot reveal all the surprises that ‘Coco’ has; you have to experience it for yourself. I feel it rightful to say that one must not miss it! Take your children! Take your significant other! Take yourself! Just do not wait! I could sing ‘Coco’s praises until the end of time!