Know that I’m with you, the only way that I can be
Until you’re in my arms again, remember me.
About twenty or thirty minutes into Coco, I was thinking to myself that this movie was going to be kind of mid-tier Pixar. You know, good, but not truly great. A bit over an hour later, I was weeping. I always think that the new Pixar movie isn’t going to make me cry; I’m wrong a good nine times out of ten. (Cars. Cars didn’t make me cry.) Anyway, to go back to the beginning, Coco is the story of Miguel, a young boy who finds his dreams of being a musician stifled by his family’s generations long tradition of hating music; when he’s driven to commit an unfortunate act of theft on the Day of the Dead, he finds himself trekking through the land of the dead in an effort to return home. Setting aside the admittedly significant fact that this is a Pixar movie with a cast of entirely Mexican characters and a plot entirely revolving around Mexican culture, this is a fantastic movie on its own terms. The film is maybe the most shockingly visually gorgeous of Pixar’s entire oeuvre. The land of the dead is rendered with incredible vibrance; the colors of everything from the lights to the fabric is genuinely breathtaking. There’s a moment when Miguel pauses upon entering the land and has a moment of awe as he looks out over the sprawling city where the bulk of the movie takes place and it’s one of the rare moments in a movie when a character has a moment of jaw-dropping awe and it’s actually worthy of that reaction. The alibrijes, mystical creatures from Mexican folklore, are a riot of colored delight as well. Likewise, the character work is phenomenal, a step forward, in my opinion, in animation. There’s a moment early in the film when Miguel plays an acoustic guitar and a look of ineffable musical feeling crosses his face and it’s quite possibly the best animated rendering of a facial expression I’ve ever seen. The music is fantastic as well. Remember Me is right up there as one of the best Pixar songs, in my opinion; it’s given so much depth in the way it’s performed in different ways at the start and then the end of the film. It’s a very simple, very short song, but it really hits hard. The voice cast is great, particularly Anthony Gonzales as Miguel, who brings a real freshness and energy to the role, and Alanna Ubach as Mama Imelda, the family’s stately matriarch. She finds real sorrow in the part and her songs are brilliant. This is, once again, a movie that no animation studio but Pixar would even think about making. It’s multi-layered and emotionally complicated. The film, it should be noted, isn’t named after Miguel, but after his great-grandmother, an elderly woman sinking into dementia; the way the film paints the relationship between the two of them is beautiful, but the moment when you realize why Coco is the key to the entire film is a heartbreaking and gorgeous emotional moment. What was the last “kid’s movie” that hinged entirely on an elderly woman and her hidden, unresolved pain? To sum it up, it’s a profoundly moving film, visually gorgeous and audacious, with wonderful characters, creative wit and a surprisingly complex plot. Pixar, you’ve done it again. 4 stars.
tl;dr – astoundingly beautiful animation, a heartfelt and emotional script, great performances; Pixar’s knocked another one out of the park. 4 stars.