Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
Director: Lee Unkrich
Running Time: 109 mins
Coco is an American film about a young Mexican boy who, despite being forbidden by his family from being the musician he dreams of, finds himself thrust into the Land of the Dead, where he takes on an epic and emotional adventure to get home, while aiming to discover why his family have distanced themselves from music.
This is such a good film. Pixar haven’t been on the greatest form in recent years with a slew of sequels, but the brilliantly original and beautifully emotional Coco is exactly what makes Pixar so great. Not only is it an enormously fun and enjoyable family adventure, but it’s a film with unbelievable visuals, a characterful and memorable soundtrack, as well as a whole lot of pure, heartfelt emotion that put me right on the edge of tears on more than one occasion.
There’s so much to love about Coco, but we’ll start off with what makes it most beautiful: the emotion. Pixar have always been renowned for their ability to tug at your heartstrings (Up, Inside Out, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3, need I say more?), but what they do with Coco is take the emotional side of the story to another level.
This isn’t so much of a sad tearjerker, but what it does bring is a truly deep and genuine sense of familial love, which plays the central role of pretty much everything that happens in the film. You may have seen the ‘family is important’ message before, but Coco does it in such an elegant and genuine way that you won’t be able to resist feeling so closely connected to the central family here, which makes the film’s plot so much more powerful and uplifting to follow, pulling you in to the point that you’ll be crying tears of joy and family nostalgia all at once.
Alongside the beautiful emotion that the film manages to bring about, it’s also a fantastically captivating look at the festival of The Day of the Dead. Although undoubtedly well-known around the world, Coco is a film that allows you to go in knowing pretty much nothing about the festival, and explains not only its customs, but its real importance in both simple and riveting terms. It’s not something I expected to gain from the film, but I really found the film’s vibrant and genuine depiction of the festival and its meaning to the people who celebrate it absolutely fascinating as well.
But when it comes to vibrant, there’s nothing that beats the film’s visuals. As I’m sure I’ve said in every Pixar review, the studio knows how to make jaw-droppingly beautiful animation, and Coco is yet another example of their brilliance. Above all, it’s the depiction of the Land of the Dead that makes this film really sing, as the film goes about portraying the afterlife in the most colourful and energetic fashion, filling the screen from start to finish with vibrant locations and characters that all make it an absolute joy to watch.
A visually beautiful film that uses as much imagination as possible to bring a fantasy world to life, Coco is arguably Pixar’s most visually ambitious and successful film, with some sequences so stunning to look at that they too had me on the edge of tears (sounds like I’m a bit of a cryer – but this film really got to me).
And then beyond even that, there’s the soundtrack. Pixar have never really managed to pull off musicals in the same way that Disney have had eternal success with, and although this isn’t a musical, it’s a film with music as close to its heart as family and tradition, but it’s yet another element that makes for an even more vibrant and delightful watch.
With a whole range of songs that take inspiration from Mexican music, the film manages to blend musical numbers perfectly into the middle of its story, and make each song just as meaningful and emotionally captivating as fun to listen to, which really is no mean feat, and it will undoubtedly have you humming a few melodies for the rest of the day.
Finally, we come to the fact that, along with all of its hugely impressive emotional depth, cultural insight, visual thrills and musical brilliance, Coco is still a kids’ movie, and an excellent one at that. Although I will say its opening twenty minutes do feel a little bit too much like a generic Disney movie, once we see the change of setting to the Land of the Dead, the film bursts into life, and in tandem with its beautiful emotion, it’s a really fun, exciting and even unpredictable adventure that will surely entertain kids to the full from beginning to end – it even had me on the edge of my seat with some genuinely surprising and riveting moments.
On the whole, Coco is an absolute wonder of a film. It’s a beautifully crafted animation that features dazzling visuals from start to finish, complete with a very characterful and memorable soundtrack, a really fun adventure story, a fascinating look at the deeper meaning of the Day of the Dead, and vivid, genuine and powerful emotion in a way only Pixar can do, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.4.