by Hunter Johnson
“Coco” is the 19th installment of the Pixar franchise and is the most recent film directed by Lee Unkrich, one of Pixar’s finest directors who helped with the creations of “Toy Story 2,” “Monsters Inc,” “Finding Nemo,” and “Toy Story 3,” along with co-director Adrian Molina.
Pixar is an interesting franchise of films because up until 2011, it seemed they could do no wrong. From the “Toy Story” series to “The Incredibles” to “Wall-E,” Pixar hit it out of the park with every single film from 1995 to 2010. Then “Cars 2” released and audiences got worried.
Pixar’s big misstep was followed with movies like “Brave,” “Monsters University” and “Cars 3,” movies that weren’t necessarily bad, but were very middling compared to Pixar’s former glory.
Now Pixar has released yet another film and audiences have been wondering: Will it continue Pixar’s streak of forgettable films?
Well, “Coco” has finally been seen by audiences … and it did just the opposite. It’s a fantastic film that goes where most animated films would be terrified to go. It visits the dead.
“Coco” takes audiences to the world and culture of Mexico. It follows a young boy named Miguel (played by Anthony Gonzalez) as he wishes desperately to become a musician despite the fact that music is completely forbidden in his family because of past traumas. Eventually, Miguel finds himself trapped in an alternate realm—the realm of the dead—as he attempts to return home to his family.
“Coco” is a fascinating take on what the meanings of family, death, music, and life really are. It’s a delightful film to watch and the visuals and music are completely mesmerizing to behold.
The film perfectly mixes humor and emotion as it tells a story about a boy who just wants to play a guitar for his family.
The most impressive feat of the film is the visual spectacle of it all. Every shot feels like it has been meticulously crafted and perfected by hundreds and hundreds of artists and filmmakers. It is simply a beautiful film to look at.
Fortunately, that’s not the only good thing about the film. One of Pixar’s previous films, “The Good Dinosaur” also was one of the most impressive looking films audiences have seen in years. The problem was that that was pretty much all the film had going for it. It had no original story elements or captivating plot line.
“Coco,” on the other hand, not only has the visual splendor, but it also has a very original plot, an extremely likable cast, and it’s both funny and dramatic.
Another interesting aspect of the film is the way it handles the land of the dead. The land of the dead is not a place filled with zombies, monsters, or really anything resembling something that would scare children watching.
It is simply a place where people who have died go and live new lives with their ancestors. And yes, they are all skeletons, but Pixar was able to craft a world where the viewer isn’t scared at all by the prospect that everyone they are watching is dead. Instead, the viewer is simply captivated by the story that is in front of them.
Other cast members include Gael García Bernal as Héctor, Benjamin Bratt as Ernesto de la Cruz, and Alanna Ubach as Mamá Imelda. This is one of the first Pixar films without any big stars attached, and that actually makes it better. No one steals the show, and everyone contributes to a very memorable ensemble.
Overall, “Coco” is a very excellent return to form for Pixar. With fantastic visuals and catchy songs, it demonstrates that Pixar is not done telling amazing stories that tug at the heartstrings of its viewers.
Hunter Johnson is a freshman theatre major and an arts and entertainment writer for Cedars. He spends his time acting on stage, reading and watching Star Wars, and occasionally doing homework.