Full of life and colour, Pixar’s latest animated film Coco explores the traditional Mexican holiday Dia de Meurtos (or Day of the Dead) to create yet another important message about family. While the moral lesson in Pixar’s work is increasingly feeling heavy-handed and the emotional resonance manipulated out of the viewer, Coco still stands above a lot of other animated films thanks to the beautiful craftsmanship and creativity of Pixar’s world-leading animators.
Torn between the love for his family and his passion for music, our young protagonist Miguel finds himself on a journey of self-discovery taking him to the fabled land of the dead. While it doesn’t sound particularly innovative and in fact bears a creeping resemblance to 2014’s The Book of Life, Coco finds its own narrative in that the obstacles Miguel comes across are always of his own making. As an animated protagonist, his drive, spirit and sheer determination make him extremely compelling. This is of course helped by Pixar’s distinct charm and humour that creates such interesting characters and fleshed out worlds. The animation itself is breath-taking, incredibly realistic but so detailed and colourful that it often looks better than real life; only the exaggerated character models continue to reveal its true nature as a cartoon.
If there are any weaknesses with the film, it is in the narrative, with major twists and dramatic reveals easily predictable thanks to the continued use of the patented Disney/Pixar formula. However, this shouldn’t be too big a problem for younger audiences as the visuals and invigorating music will keep them engaged whilst older viewers can still appreciate the imagination and creativity put into every frame of animation. Coco also continues Disney’s recent trend in educating audiences through animation, highlighting Polynesian culture with Moana and now Mexican traditions and values with Miguel’s physical and emotional journey through the land of the dead. The casting of authentic Latin-American actors also helps make Coco become Disney/Pixar’s definitive Latin culture film; the standout being Gael Garcia Bernal as embittered spirit Hector, by far the most interesting character of the film and guaranteed to have you teary-eyed at some point. Certain scenes do have this strong effect and it continues to become obvious that Pixar intentionally sets these moments up to maximise the amount of emotion they can squeeze out of the audience: Nonetheless the emotion itself is genuine.
Pixar has managed another hit with Coco; the beauty, charisma and pure craftsmanship put into the visuals and characters trumping the sometimes unoriginal and often predictable narrative.