Coco might possibly be the best animated film Pixar Animation Studios has ever made. The emotions and feels hit as hard as 2009’s Up and 2010’s Toy Story 3, which already reduced many children (and adults!) to tears with its heartbreaking opening montage of Carl and Ellie’s ups and downs together as well as Woody and the gang resigning themselves to their fiery fate in the incinerator scene.
Coco tells the story of the Rivera family in Mexico, beginning with Imelda raising her daughter, Coco, alone after her husband left the family to pursue his dream of making music. A few generations later and fast-forward to the present day, Imelda’s great-great-grandson named Miguel now lives with his huge family who has continued the shoe-making business that Imelda started. Miguel secretly dreams of becoming a musician but his entire family has banned music from their lives due to what happened with Imelda in the past. As Miguel goes against the wishes of his family, he finds himself in the Land of The Dead on Dia de Muertos or the Day of The Dead. I won’t spoil anything but viewers will only realize why the film is named after Mama Coco, who is Miguel’s great-grandmother, after the movie ends, which lends itself narrative brilliance.
I felt like Pixar has truly taken the time and effort to craft and respectfully adapt Mexican culture and Dia de Muertos into Coco. It also speaks to the growing diversity being embraced by Pixar that they hired a cast comprising almost entirely of voice actors and actresses of Latino descent. All of this paid off, seeing as Coco is already the highest grossing movie of all-time in Mexico!
The visuals are on par with the best of what Pixar has to offer. The most visually impressive scenes are set during Miguel’s time in the Land of the Dead, like when he’s crossing the vivid and colorful bridge made entirely of Mexican marigold flower petals, connecting the Land of The Living and the Land of The Dead. The Land of the Dead itself is expansive in scope and extremely detailed, looking like an actual living, breathing city from a distance when seen from the perspective of Miguel. Before Coco begins, there’s also a short video by the folks at Pixar showcasing the technical wizardry needed to bring Coco’s Land of The Dead to life, which is a great effort to make more people realize how much work and time is put into developing these works of art.
Coco explores concepts such as mortality with a bit of existentialism sprinkled in too. Some kids might find some scenes frightening, although that’s not to say that there’s none of the usual wit and charm we’ve come to expect from Pixar’s animated fare. The jokes and adorable side characters (Dante the dog, magical spirit animal guides called Alibrijes) are still there but there’s no denying some of the content being a bit dark for kids.
Aside from the aforementioned darker themes as well as lighter themes like pursuing one’s dreams, the core at the heart of Coco is family and its importance. It’s also about how to accept the death of loved ones and how memories can keep them alive in our hearts and minds even after their passing. All in all, pretty heavy stuff for kids to digest but it’ll resonate further for older kids and adults who can relate (This writer is not ashamed to say he cried a lot and he promises you will too.).
There’s only ever been 3 animated films ever nominated in the Academy Award for Best Picture category and that includes 1991’s Beauty and the Beast, 2009’s Up and 2010’s Toy Story 3. This writer believes that Coco more than deserves to be on that list, alongside Best Animated Feature, for next year’s Oscars.
PSA: There’s usually an animated short before a Disney or Pixar animated film and that holds true for Coco as well. The short is titled Olaf’s Frozen Adventure and it’s been quite divisive amongst viewers due to its duration, at a whopping 21 minutes long. This writer feels that it was a definite bonus and delight while some might find it annoying and a waste of time.
Final Score: 95/100