A once in an afterlife experience
By Jason Wiese
Pixar just loves to make its audience cry. The studio behind many of the greatest animated masterpieces in the last 20 years or so has gained a reputation for digging into the most saddening elements of our reality. The prime example would be the brilliant yet heartbreaking opening sequence in 2009’s Up, which deals with the death of a loved one. Imagine if Pixar based an entire film on that concept…
On that note, Coco tells the story of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez), a young boy growing up in Mexico with a dream to be a musician, much to the chagrin of his family. On the traditional feast day of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), Miguel discovers a secret that he hopes will change his family’s views on music: he is the great-great grandson of “the greatest musician of all time,” Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). However, his family sees that as all the more reason to shame Miguel’s passion, but the boy will not have it.
A selfish act of rebellion unexpectedly leads Miguel to be magically transported to the Land of the Dead, which is far different than he expected. With the help of his new dead friend and fellow musician Héctor (Gael García Bernal), Miguel embarks on an adventure to find De la Cruz, earn his blessing to return to the Land of the Living and carry out his dream of being a musician.
The film, co-directed by Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, is a burst of creative energy in nearly every detail. The animation, as one would expect from Pixar, is a wonder to look at, not to mention the mere incredible inventiveness of the design of the Land of the Dead. By adapting the cultural beliefs associated with the Day of the Dead, Coco imagines an afterlife that is brightly colored and radiating with a positivity that most common on-screen interpretations of the afterlife rarely exhibit. Its grand scale gives you a warming sensation that brings light to darker elements of the story. The most important element of the story, however, is the music. Every one of the original songs, including “Remember Me” – a shoe-in for a Best Original Song Oscar nomination, is a wonder to behold.
Coco may be Pixar’s darkest film yet given its crucial themes of life and death, but is easily one of the most visually and soulfully uplifting. Despite the fact that you may need to bring some tissues with you, I guarantee that if you do end up shedding a tear, most of them will be tears of joy. This is a brilliant, fun spectacle for any age. You will have the time of your afterlife.