Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) loves music so much, he's made himself a guitar, aspiring to follow in the footsteps of his idol, late recording and movie star Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). But Miguel has a problem. His great-great-grandmother and her daughter were abandoned by Imelda's (voice of Alanna Ubach) musician husband. She formed a prosperous family business making shoes, but music's been forbidden in the Rivera family ever since. On the Day of the Dead, a fluke introduces the 12 year-old to deceased family members as well as de la Cruz and he learns old family wounds can be healed but everything depends on his great-grandmother "Coco."
It seems strange that Pixar would come out with a Day of the Dead themed animation just two years after 20th Century Fox Animation's "The Book of Life," a beautifully animated musical tale of a love triangle manipulated from the Land of the Dead. That film's story was formulaic, and so is Pixar's, a fairy tale about time and remembrance that recalls "Beauty and the Beast's" ticking clock of a red rose under a glass dome. But this is Pixar and directors Adrian Molina and Lee Unkrich ("Toy Story 3") working from a screenplay by the former and Matthew Aldrich, have crafted a giddier, more emotionally satisfying adventure popping with color and animation so breathtaking it's often photo realistic. "Coco" isn't up to early Pixar standards, but it is a solid triple and a welcome relief from the sequels that have been their main output since their last good one in 2010 ("Toy Story 3").
Hector spends his days playing with street dog Dante and shining shoes in Mariachi Plaza, but when a musician takes interest in him, his Abuelita (voice of Renée Victor) appears out of nowhere to beat the man with her shoe and drag Hector back home. Hector's had a bug put in his ear, though, about a musical competition to be held there. His homemade guitar ruined, Hector heads to the local graveyard where Day of the Dead festivities have begun and steals into the mausoleum of de la Cruz, his famed instrument mounted on a wall. Miguel takes it, and suddenly the young boy can see the dead, meeting relatives whose pictures adorn his family's ofrenda, their Day of the Dead offerings. With their help, Miguel (and Dante) cross over into the Land of the Dead where he hopes to meet his idol. He does, but not before meeting Héctor (voice of Gael García Bernal), in danger of disappearing because the last person on earth to remember him is about to forget. In helping Héctor, Miguel will learn just how entwined de la Cruz is in his own family history.
Miguel's been given the big eyes and pug nose of so many Disney characters, but the animators have gone to town realizing his family, Imelda a regal Latino, Abuelita a mannish fireplug, Coco sporting the wrinkles of 100 years, de la Cruz an exaggeratedly square jawed heartthrob. Dante, the film's most joyful character, is a hairless dog of great flexibility with a tongue long enough to trip over. Textures are extraordinary, clothing and leatherware indistinguishable from the real thing. The skeletons which comprise the dead are given character with eyeballs embedded in black depths, their movements beautifully realized. Wild color is employed throughout, particularly in the Land of the Dead with fantastical spirit animals modeled on Mexican art. Marigolds abound in the Land of the Dead, forming the bridge between the two worlds. Michael Giacchino's ("Up") score utilizes traditional Mexican instruments, the soundtrack featuring many traditional songs as well as Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez's original 'Remember Me.' "Coco" is stuffed with musical numbers including talent shows by the living and the dead.
"Coco" is a grand, supernatural adventure celebrating life while honoring those who are no longer with us. It's an entertaining romp that embraces family past and present.
Robin did not see this film.
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