With Disney•Pixar’s Coco, the studio has reclaimed its best of the best status. Coco is an instant classic – and the studio’s most mature and intelligent film yet.
When aspiring musician Miguel ends up in the Land of the Dead in Disney•Pixar’s Coco, his family takes him to the Department of Family Reunions where a busy clerk informs him that he’s cursed. To return to the Land of the Living, Miguel will need a magical marigold petal and the blessing of a family member—but, according to the clerk, the family member can include any condition she likes—even forbidding music forever.
Miguel Rivera is a ten-year old boy who wants to be a musician, like his hero Ernesto de la Crus (Benjamin Bratt) – but because of the disappearance of his musician great, great grandfather, his family has enforced a strict no music rule.
When not shining shoes, Miguel hangs out with a street dog he’s named Dante – the dog is his only friend.
When he attempts to play in a Dia de los Muertos competition – with a guitar he ‘borrows’ from the tomb of his hero, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead. There he discovers that he can only return home if he secures the blessing of his family.
Unfortunately, his family – even in the Land of the Dead – is unwilling to let him be a musician. So he decides to get the blessing of de la Cruz, who he has come to believe is his great, great grandfather.
Fortunately, there is someone who might be able to help him – a con man called Héctor (Gael Garcia Bernal) who claims to know de la Cruz well enough to have played with him. If Miguel will take a photo back the Land of the Living so that his daughter might see it and remember him (once you’re forgotten, even in the Land of the Dead, there is a final death), he’ll help Miguel.
The two set out on a quest to secure de la Cruz’s blessing – the rest of Miguel’s family, led by Mama Imelda (Ana Ubach) following to prevent it.
There are reasons that the Rivera family have the no music rule, but they don’t seem fair to Miguel (he’s right about that), so he refuses to let his family kill his dream.
It’s a good thing that Miguel is a brave lad because there things here that are not what they seem – and if he fails to return to the Land of the Living by sunrise, he will remain in the Land of the Dead forever. There’s even a murder that is a key part of the story – and a seemingly minor character, Miguel’s great-great grandmother Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguía), who is so pivotal that the film is named for her.
Coco is a film about family, following one’s dreams and the way that the least little action can have profound consequences. It is Pixar’s darkest film, with themes of death and the importance of keeping family alive in one’s memory.
It’s also the studio’s most assured technically – its human characters are beautifully designed and animated; the depth of the world(s) it inhabits (especially the riotous Land of the Dead) are dazzling without feeling like they’re showing off, and it is, overall, the most magnificent looking film Pixar has ever done.
Coco is accompanied by a short set in the kingdom from Frozen that finds snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) trying to find exactly the right holiday tradition for sisters Anna and Elsa. It’s short, sweet (but not too sweet) and will delight everyone who saw Frozen.
Final Grade: A+