Coco a Pixar Valentine to Mexico that's up there with WALL-E and Inside Out
Film Review: COCO (PG, 105 mins)
Animation/Fantasy/Drama/Comedy/Romance. Featuring the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach, Renee Victor.
Directors: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina.
FAMILY values resonate far beyond the land of the living in Disney Pixar's uplifting computer-animated coming of age story. Sensitively scripted by Alfred Molina and Matthew Aldrich, Coco is a visually sumptuous Valentine to Mexican culture and the importance of passing down memories to the next generation lest they be lost forever in the mists of time.
Co-director Lee Unkrich, who deservedly collected an Oscar for Toy Story 3, strikes a joyous universal chord with an all-Latino voice cast and an irresistible blend of heart-tugging emotion, uproarious comedy and toe-tapping musicality.
You can feel the love in every jaw-dropping frame, which shimmers with vibrant colour and exquisite attention to detail. It's a ravishing feast for the senses.
Coco nimbly addresses thorny issues of mortality and reminiscence for audiences of all ages, skilfully employing a goofy stray dog called Dante as the broad comic relief to keep little ones gurgling with glee in between poignant and painful lessons on the natural cycle of life.
Tears flow freely – and genuinely – throughout the briskly paced narrative that conceals a couple of delightful surprises.
Twelve-year-old dimple-cheeked Miguel Rivera (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) lives in the bustling Mexican village of Santa Cecilia, where his family have worked as shoemakers for generations.
His grandmother Abuelita (Renee Victor) rules the roost and she strictly enforces a ban on music, which dates back to a doomed romance between Miguel's great-great-grandmother Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) and a fame-seeking guitarist.
"Being part of this family means being here for this family," Abuelita warns her grandson, who secretly yearns to be a musician like his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).
To this end, on Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead – when Miguel is supposed to be honouring his ancestors, the boy sneaks into the ornate burial tomb of his idol to "borrow" a guitar so he can perform at the village talent show.
One strum of the instrument magically transports the youngster to an alternate plane, where he can communicate with long-lost skeletal relatives. They shepherd Miguel over a bridge of fluttering marigold petals to the Land of the Dead.
"I thought it was one of those made-up things that adults tell kids – like vitamins!" gasps Miguel.
In this wondrous realm, the boy joins forces with a charming trickster called Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) to uncover a dark secret from his family's past.
Coco stands shoulder-to-shoulder with WALL-E and Inside Out as a heartfelt modern classic from the Disney Pixar stable.
Michael Giacchino's orchestral score accentuates the script's emotional high notes and also provides its own elegiac crescendo with the tender ballad Remember Me.
Safe to say, we'll be fondly recalling Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina's film for a very long time.