Disney Pixar’s newest film is an ode to magic. From the grandiose spectacle of neon colours that explode on the screen to the tenderness of a family reunion, directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina created a film that brims with wonder.
Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) must return home from the land of the dead to pursue his love of music all while attempting to meet his hero, the revered star Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). The formulaic story structure plays out almost exactly as one would expect. The well-trodden Disney formula still works its magic. Yet it is in the tiny character moments where the writing really seems to have hit its mark. The large cast of characters, the majority being the living or deceased members of Miguel’s shoe maker family, seems to suggest an interesting backstory that, through intelligent staging and moments, implies lifelong ties that only family can muster.
These moments are aided, if not made, by incredible modelling and animation. The photo-realistic images may be outdated in several years by advancing technology, but at this moment Coco stands in as the most detailed 3D animation ever assembled. While the film’s larger than life (or should I say death?) spectacles come across as visual splendour, it is in the intricate and lingering shots of daily life that stick out as personal favourites. Be on the lookout for a pair of shot glasses and try to imagine how many man-hours that much detail would have necessitated.
The musicality of the film is central to the plot and is well executed from touching ballads to a spirited salsa inspired tune that aids in the amplified tension of one late scene. While only having five separate songs throughout the film, each is varied enough to ensure that the film never focuses too much on either music or family. Each strikes a firm balance that works really well in tandem with the themes of the film.
Potentially Pixar’s best film this decade, it’s hard not to fall in love with the splendour of the movie. It’s warm hug of a visual shell cracks wide open with all of the family heartache one could handle in a surprisingly subversive and well crafted animated masterwork.