Pixar. It’s hard to think of another studio or brand that is associated with such consistent greatness. It’s a studio that has knocked it out of the park, time and time again, with films that are adored by millions of people of all different ages. Its parent studio Disney is probably the only another one, any yet, recent hits aside, there’s something intrinsically different about a Pixar movie when compared to a Disney one. There’s an added dimension to it, a sense that each of their films reflects the human experience in great and truly moving ways.
Take Inside Out for example – few films of any kind have dealt with mental health so perfectly. For a generation, Toy Story seemed to chart our entire childhoods. Even the underated Brave showcases the depths of a mother-daughter relationship more than most dramas even hope to. And now we have Coco, which I can now instinctively call my new favorite Pixar.
Having loved 2014’s Book Of Life, I watched the trailers fearful that there’d be too much overlap, a retreat of what had gone before. Thankfully instead of rival films set during Dia de Muertos (The Day Of The Dead) we get two films that work as companion pieces. The first about romantic love, now this one about familial love. Like every other Pixar movie, there are other important messages embedded within. Messages about the importance of family, love, acceptance and support. How with those things we are unstoppable and how those things don’t just stop when someone dies, a part of them will always be with you and inside you.
We fall in love with the protagonist here, young Miguel, from the outset. His life has been dictated by the actions of past generations, namely that of his great-great-grandfather – a musician who left his wife Imelda and daughter Coco to pursue a career in music. Imelda, devastated at his abandonment, started a shoe-making business and banned music from her family. No listening, playing, talking or even thinking about music. However, all Miguel wants is to perform, aspiring to be just like Ernesto de la Cruz (think Mexican Elvis Presley in terms of style and celebrity). In his desperation to overturn the ban and persuade his family to let him play he winds up in the Land of the Dead…
What follows is an adventure that has touches of the familiar yet is ultimately unlike any other. First and foremost, and obviously unsurprisingly, the animation itself is simply gorgeous. The colour and depth is asontishing throughout, with settings living and breathing in a manner rarely seen outside of a Studio Ghibli movie. The characters all feel so real and human, acting in all manners of ways that feel so believable and true. I particularly liked Dante the Dog, a sidekick who seems to be following in the trend set by HeiHei the chicken from Moana – one who isn’t so cutesy, is far from perfect yet always has their buddies’ best interests at heart.
It must also be noted just how well constructed the female figures are here. Western animation isn’t exactly renowned for well-rounded female characters, particularly those who aren’t princesses. The women of Miguel’s family are fiery figures: passionate, driven and fight-to-the-death-for-their-beloved-family types. They’re just awesome.
Then there’s the song. Remember Me has the makings of a new Disney classic. Few songs showcase such ardent love and longing, capturing the ties that bind us together in such a heart-tugging manner. It, and the film’s emotional resolution, will have even the most cold-hearted in floods.
Tender, a tad macabre, fun-packed and just plain beautiful. Coco is quite, quite brilliant.
Coco is in UK cinemas now.