Coco (2018) – Review

Director: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach

The Overview
Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, a legendary singer. (Source: IMDb)

The Review
After their last original story, Inside Out, was met with such acclaim, I was greatly anticipating Coco; and come on, it’s the latest Disney Pixar film, there’s always going to be excitement surrounding their releases!

Happily, Coco is another absolute gem from Pixar, offering perhaps one of their most fully realised offerings yet. Like Inside Out, the world of Coco feels fleshed out, highly imaginative yet also somehow believable, with a world-logic that remains consistent throughout. From the beautiful opening paper-cut animated sequence, to the emotive finale, via the eye-popping colour of the Land of the Dead, Coco is not only a spectacle to behold but a simple and classic Pixar story of family and legacy.

Whilst perhaps not as deep as Inside Out, Coco has a lot to say about love, family, legacy, and the importance of remembering those who have passed. It focuses on those figures who inspire and guide us, and these universal themes ensure it is relevant regardless of its deep rooting in Mexican culture.

Where so many animations fail is in the “white-washing”, but in Coco, Pixar boldly opts for cultural accuracy, with characters who look and talk as they should. The film ended up being surprisingly educational about many aspects of the Dia de los Muertos and Mexican culture, which was refreshing and deftly handled; informative enough for an adult audience and simply portrayed enough for a younger audience. It rather plays down the great things Pixar do to describe them as “kids” films however; they make films which are universally accessible and Coco is no different.

Whilst I had anticipated there would be a lot more music in Coco, it is worth noting that it is not a musical per se, but that this definitely isn’t to its detriment. There are a handful of songs, Remember Me being the best and most memorable, but the story focuses more on the power of music and its significance in terms of a persons legacy. The songs feel necessary and play an important part in the story, and this was something I felt the film handled extremely well. In fact, Coco has almost as much to say about the idolisation of musical figures as it does about anything else, portrayed through the Elvis-esque personality Ernesto de la Cruz (Bratt), and the young Miguel (Gonzalez) who dreams of being a musician.

The world-building and production design of Coco are absolutely stunning, and the Land of the Dead being particularly gorgeous. The places feel so textured and detailed and there’s some really wonderful background touches.

Of course, Pixar are known for making you cry and this film is no different. I cry easily but this film made me absolutely sob, but I was glad that it did. I found this film so emotive and beautiful and it really struck a chord (forgive the musical pun!) with me.

The Verdict
I saw this movie and you should too. Pixar have done it again! Coco is a treat for all the senses, one which educates, inspires, delights and entertains. The power of music runs through Coco but it is the power of memory that elevates it, and Coco is absolutely a film to remember.

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