UK Release: 19/01/2018
Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach
Disney Pixar takes on death itself in Coco.
The next great family film from the studio that brought you Finding Nemo and Toy Story takes an equally thoughtful leap into the great unknown. Sure, they’ve dealt with loss in the past… but Coco tackles the notion of death head on with a story of grief and remembrance, set within the beautifully vibrant Land of the Dead.
Yes, Coco brings Mexican folklore to the masses.
And with a story which appropriates Day of the Dead for a young audience, it gives us a unique look at what happens after we shuffle off this mortal coil. Death is not the end, and with a heart-warming story of family and remembrance, it’s a beautiful way to tackle the most important issue a child may face – the death of a loved one.
But let’s start at the beginning…
Miguel is a musician. He plays guitar, and sings (in the comfort of his own musical hideout) and he wants to show the whole world his talent… but his family would never understand. It turns out that Miguel’s family hates music, and it’s all because a long-lost relative turned his back on his family as he chased a life of stardom. As a result, Miguel’s entire family shunned music… and it seems he’ll never be able to live out his dream.
That is, until a talent competition comes to town.
Miguel dreams of being just like his idol – famed singer and guitarist Ernesto de la Cruz.
And when a chance discovery means that he could well be the great-great-grandson of the hugely famous Mexican idol, Miguel decides he has to seize his moment… but it doesn’t exactly go well. He’s soon discovered by his family, and his grandmother Elena doesn’t like it one bit – destroying his guitar to stop him from playing. It’s a harsh indictment of a family beleaguered by its own past.
But that’s not going to stop Miguel.
Instead, he breaks into the tomb of his hero… and after snatching his guitar, it looks as though he might be able to play in the talent contest after all. That is, until he realises that he’s been whisked off in a moment to the Land of the Dead.
And that’s only that start of his troubles.
At its heart, Coco is a story about finding your place in the world. It’s a beautifully intricate story about standing up to those who put you down – even if it’s your own family. And there are plenty of lessons to be learned about family and friendship along the way. The best part is that Coco is all about not letting anyone stand in your way… and that’s a great lesson to teach kids. Miguel fights for what he wants every step of the way, and even when his own family is against him, he doesn’t give up on his dreams.
Thankfully, it’s not quite that simple…
As you can imagine, Miguel’s family is far more complex than it first seems. There’s a lot of pain and heartbreak that has made his family the way it is… but this could be the chance they needed to put things right.
Miguel’s family is deftly played by all involved… and the entire dynamic paints a very plausible picture of a typical Mexican family. Then there’s the visual style of it all – steeped in Mexican culture and bursting with colour. It’s a simply beautiful film, every moment wrapped up in a vibrant package which captures the Mexican culture with ease. Day of the Dead is such an evocative celebration, and Disney Pixar manages to capture the mood of these celebrations perfectly.
It helps that the story is so gripping, too.
At the start, Coco seems to be a cute, quaint little story with very little going on… but with a few twists and turns (which you can arguably see coming a mile off) the story builds up to an impressive finale.
Miguel gets the chance to confront his family both in the physical and the spirit worlds, and it’s a truly amazing thing. Perhaps even more powerful, is that he earns his family’s approval while also bringing a family mystery to a close.
And he saves a long-lost family member to boot.
Essentially, Coco is an absolutely stunning movie, which depicts death as an adventure that’s just as big and fulfilling as life itself. But it’s far more than that. It’s an emotional journey of family, friendship and remembering those you love. Not to mention, there’s a dazzling array of catchy tunes that you’ll be humming to yourself for days. There’s even one more poignant song which might even bring a tear to your eyes.
I know it did to me.
Coco is absolutely fantastic. It’s full of energy, charm and real life (and death) lessons. It’s not exactly one of Pixar’s best, but it’s certainly up there. And it’s a really, genuinely lovely story that might just help some kids through rough times.
Coco stars Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, and Alanna Ubach.
Lee Unkrich directed the movie, based on a script he co-wrote with Matthew Aldrich, Jason Katz and Adrian Molina.
Coco heads to cinemas on 19 January 2018.