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Green Light in the City

Film Review: Coco

19 January 18 words: Nick Parkhouse

After a bumpy last few years, we went to see if Coco was a return to form for Pixar...

In recent years, Pixar have set a new benchmark for animated films. After debuting with the brilliant Toy Story in 1995, the studio enjoyed a period of largely unbroken critical and commercial success, bagging eight Best Animated Feature Oscars and earning more than £8 billion at the worldwide box office.

Over recent years though there have been concerns that the quality level of Pixar output has been falling. 2011’s Cars 2 was the first real misfire, and since then the likes of Monsters University, The Good Dinosaur and Cars 3 have failed to reach the heights of genuine classics such as Wall-E, The Incredibles and Up.

For their first original film in three years, Pixar have headed to Mexico to base their new film Coco around the annual Day of the Dead celebrations. The story centres on 12-year-old Miguel, whose dreams of becoming a famous musician are being crushed by his family because of the ‘curse’ his great-grandfather inflicted upon them.

When Miguel discovers that he may be related to Ernesto de la Cruz, the greatest musician of them all, he is accidentally transported to the Land of the Dead where he must seek the help of his deceased relatives to return home before the sun rises and he remains stuck in the afterlife forever.

The modern touchpoint for this film is Jorge Gutierrez’s 2014 animation The Book Of Life; the Guillermo del Toro-produced film which also featured on a young Mexican being stifled in his career ambitions and having to embark on an afterlife adventure to win his family’s approval.

As you would expect from a Pixar production, the animation here is quite something

Having not been wowed by the trailers, The Book of Life came as a complete surprise to me. It’s a charming, beautiful, and entertaining family film with a great voice cast, a lovely message, and some superb mariachi interpretations of chart hits. While Coco shares some common themes with Gutierrez’s 2014 film, it certainly stands on its own as a great piece of entertainment.

As you would expect from a Pixar production, the animation here is quite something. Both Miguel’s Mexican village and the fantasy world of the afterlife are beautifully rendered, and an enormous amount of care has gone into creating colourful and vibrant characters.

The story itself is also surprisingly emotional, touching on issues such as loss, grief and memory while also presenting an underlying message of family and ‘fulfilling your dreams’ ambition. The third act of the film is really well done, and I admit to being moved by quite how powerfully its messages resonated.

My one caveat is that, on the evidence of my viewing, I’m not sure that Coco will play particularly well to a very young audience. While there are some moments of excitement and slapstick, and one or two cute characters, the themes are likely to be appreciated by a slightly older audience and the very young kids in my screening did get a little restless.

All in all, Coco is a lovely piece of work. While I don’t think it can compete with the very best of Pixar’s output, after a couple of recent disappointments it’s certainly a return to form for the Disney-owned studio. Charming, moving, and beautiful to look at, it’s perfect family entertainment.


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