From the moment the film opened with the wonderfully animated Papel Picado banners, our attention was grabbed immediately. We thought this was a perfect way to get the audience up to speed on the history of the family without bogging the story down with too many details — plus, the artwork was simply fantastic. It should also be noted that this review may contain spoilers.
So, we know some of the basics from the trailers — Miguel’s family banned music, he wants to be a musician, and he finds himself in the land of the dead. That couldn’t be a more simplified premise for a film that not only surprises but delighted us throughout.
Visually, the film is stunning beyond words. From the subtle bone-shaped cobblestones to the gorgeous glowing cities and the 100% accurate guitar-playing animations, the team has yet again outdone themselves with passion and attention to detail that Pixar fans have come to look forward to.
Of course, this isn’t simply a visual film — the story also kicks into full gear when the adorable title character of Miguel (“dimple, no dimple“) sees a talent show advertisement that sends him on a direct mission to do whatever it takes to perform in that evening’s celebration.
Of course, it’s that passion to perform which solidifies his family’s position on music even further, so Miguel must take matters into his own hands and borrow his Great-Great-Grandfather’s Guitar (Ernesto de la Cruz).
After Miguel strums Ernesto’s guitar and opens somewhat of a portal to the land of the dead is when the hilarity really begins. We won’t spoil too much, but let’s just say that Miguel may have some trouble staying out of trouble which leads him back to the land of the dead again…and again!
The introduction of each of the characters, and especially Hector (Miguel’s trickster companion in the land of the dead) is very natural and you can tell the writing prowess of the team here — it was a brilliant way to introduce a character with such passion who could also try to pull-a-fast-one on you at any moment.
Updated – check out a new clip (uploaded to Pixar’s YouTube) of Miguel overhearing Hector’s discussion with a guard after he gets caught in some mischief.
Along the way in the land of the dead (while Miguel tries to reach Ernesto de la Cruz), Hector is ultimately the one that teaches Miguel about the value of family, the importance of the ofrenda, and tradition (in general) to a much deeper level.
The bond between Hector and Miguel grows quickly and after a grito-inducing performance of Un Poco Loco, you can feel their connection is deepening when Hector leans over with a reassuring embrace across Miguel’s chest and says, “I’m so proud of you” in a sweet, subtle tone. It’s almost a bit of foreshadowing in our minds.
Among the adventures in the land of the dead, the audience (and Miguel) are still acutely aware that time is running out for Miguel as he needs to be back in the land of the living of he’ll be stuck in the land of the dead as a skeleton forever.
Miguel must forge on and meet Ernesto de la Cruz, for he feels he (being his Great-Great-Grandfather) will be the only one to give him a proper blessing (which is needed) to return to the land of the living without any conditions (and Miguel doesn’t want any conditions which would block him from playing music).
Right before Miguel can get his blessing from Ernesto though, the story takes a dark and surprising turn — one that can send shivers down your spine and propels the third act full steam ahead.
Without revealing too much here, Miguel finally makes his way back to the land of the living to fulfill one last wish for Hector and this is when we find out why the movie is officially called Coco. Wow — get ready as the emotions run high. If you need tissues, this will be your moment — we can still get misty-eyed thinking about it.
Specifically, the animation and vocal performance of Anthony Gonzalez (voice of Miguel) along with Mama Coco are brilliant and the use of silence here increases the impact of the scene one-hundred times over.
We couldn’t name one person in the vocal cast that we didn’t love, but Anthony Gonzalez, the voice of Miguel gave a flawless performance in our opinion. Although it would be easy to lump him into a comparison of other child actors who have voiced Pixar characters, we believe Anthony’s performance should definitely stand proudly alongside some of Pixar’s best vocal works. We really felt that Miguel was Anthony and Anthony was Miguel.
Coco definitely stands strong in the lineup of Pixar films and we definitely recommend seeing it as soon as you’re able. We rate it a solid 9.5/10 for its character designs, environments, lighting, accuracy in animation, effects and story — Coco is a wonderfully heartwarming film that celebrates life, death, and everything in between.
What are your thoughts – leave a comment below or rate it in the Pixar Post Forum thread dedicated to the film’s review.