Coco is Pixar’s most touching film since Up.
The tears don’t flow as quickly as in that 2009 movie’s notorious opening montage but do yourself a favor and bring some tissues to the theater. At the crowded screening I went to, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room by the time the ending credits started rolling.
But “Coco ” does more than just yank your heartstrings, it’s a fun adventure and gorgeous piece of art that will leave its music stuck in your head for days.
Set in Mexico around the Day of the Dead, the film centers around 12-year-old Miguel, the youngest member of a close family who has forbidden music for generations for a reason that’s explained in the opening credits. Instead of making shoes like his ancestors, Miguel dreams of being a musician and after making a questionable decision, finds himself trapped in the Land of the Dead as a living boy. He uses help from his deceased relatives, a stray dog and some new friends to get himself back to the Land of the Living.
Mexican culture takes center stage in “Coco” which boasts an all-Latino cast including Benjamin Bratt, Gael Garcia Bernal and Edward James Olmos. From the music, to the cuisine, costumes and vivid colors present in the Land of the Dead, there is so much life in every shot of “Coco .” It’s a beautiful movie and a celebration of the large extended family structure and appreciation of ancestral history for which Latino culture is known.
Like many of the greatest animated films and family movies in general, “Coco” exudes warmth and makes the audience wish they could be in its world – even if that world is resided by the skeletons of dead loved ones.
This movie is all about family ties and the importance of connecting with your relatives. It will perhaps inspire kids to ask their parents about their own family trees on the way home from the spectacle. I immediately wanted to order one of those at-home DNA test kits after watching “Coco .”
I would beg parents of children under 10 years old to use caution before bringing them to see “Coco .” I could easily see some of its visuals scaring small kids and the casual way it deals with death leading to some difficult conversations. But this movie is definitely appropriate for older kids and can open their eyes to a foreign culture that’s very close to home.
The original songs in the movie are energetic, memorable and well performed. Director Lee Unkrich and Pixar’s animators did a fantastic job showing the finesse it requires to play the guitar. As Miguel silently plays his precious guitar in his attic in one early sequence, trying to keep his passion hidden from his own family, we witness every note he picks, every fret he pushes and every matching facial expression in astounding detail.
“Coco ,” too, has much to say about hero worship and the dangers of looking up to idols, which has become a topical message because of the recent slew of bad news out of Hollywood.
My only knocks on “Coco ” would be that its plot had a few too many moving parts and its action-packed climax felt out of place with the pacing of the rest of the film.