Disney-Pixar’s latest animated feature, ‘Coco’ finally arrived to U.S. theaters this past Thanksgiving. The film is inspired by the Mexican holiday known as The Day of the Dead, and tells the story of a young boy named Miguel who dreams of one day becoming a famous musician. However, Miguel’s ancestor had similar aspirations and abandoned his family generations before to pursue his own musical career. Music is banned in Miguel’s household, but when a series of events transports him to the lively Land of the Dead, Miguel attempts to fulfill his dream of becoming a musician, while meeting new characters and playing delightful tunes along the way.
I went in to see ‘Coco’ with as little exposure to it as possible, and I definitely recommend doing so. The film’s plot and characters are unique, expertly written and introduced in the film, with a number of twists and turns that keeping viewers engaged, smiling and even shedding a few tears. The film was heartwarming and beautiful; it has definitely earned its place at the top alongside Pixar’s classics.
‘Coco’ has a plethora of wonderful attributes. The animation is some of Pixar’s best work yet, with character designs that are very pleasing to the eye; Miguel’s simple and wide-eyed form creates an adorable character to relate to, contrasting beautifully with the exceptionally detailed and energetic skeletons that populate the Land of the Dead. The color palette and style is definitely busier in this movie than in previous Pixar films, but it never feels sloppy or chaotic. The Land of the Dead feels utterly alive with the countless layers of buildings, characters that are in constant motion, and scenery sprinkled with neon creatures. Even the small village that Miguel lives in feels immersive and welcoming- you truly sense the warmth and happiness exuding from the vibrant townspeople.
However, the true heart of the film lies within its story, its characters, and the culture the film clearly went in great lengths to properly represent. As a Latin American, it was so satisfying to see subtle nods to tropes that are exclusive to Latin America, specifically Mexican culture. Large families living together, running a family business, and ‘abuelas’ who can shower you with kisses one second and then chase you down with a ‘chancla’ in the next all make the film feel remarkably authentic. The screenwriters also integrate a great deal of spanish words in the dialogue that never feels like it’s too much or like its coming out of nowhere. The movie also masterfully introduces many Mexican traditions and values that are exemplified during the Day of the Dead holiday, spanning from the reason why they create marigold petal trails to the importance of honoring our deceased ancestors and the importance of family that is ever present in Mexican culture.
Yet, the most notable cultural artifact that the film presents is Mexico’s music. From lively mariachi performances to sweetly whispered lullabies, ‘Coco’s soundtrack is one of the film’s standout features. ‘Coco’ has several original songs that vary from being fun and energetic to melancholy and heartbreaking. Songs like “Un Poco Loco” and “La Llorona” were definitely very fun to watch and listen to, and the actors’ performances were outstanding. The newcomer who played Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) has an amazing singing voice and can really act. In addition, the song “Remember Me” is a recurring tune in the film, and its role in the film’s plot had the whole audience sniffling near the end. Critics are already predicting that it will win the Oscar for best original song at the next Academy Awards.
The only low point during the movie was not in the movie at all. Disney decided to release a twenty-one minute ‘Frozen’ “short” before ‘Coco’ that not only annoyed the majority of the theater, but had people scratching their heads wondering if they entered the wrong screening. The short was originally meant to have been aired on television as a holiday special, and the choice to release it alongside ‘Coco’ was not the smartest on their part. If you’re a fan of ‘Frozen’, you’ll enjoy it. If not, then I recommend spending that time leading up to the screening getting some popcorn at the snack bar; you’re not missing anything noteworthy.
‘Coco’ is a magnificent and genuinely heartfelt film. With superb animation, an original story, and an incredibly relevant message, it is an experience that anyone can enjoy. It is the last Disney film of the decade that won’t be a sequel, so seeing another film like this will be rare in the next few years. Go watch it; it’s a film that’s more than worth remembering.