12-year-old Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) loves his quirky family and wholesome life in Mexico. He wants nothing more than to become a musician like his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), but his dreams are stifled his grandmother, Abuelita Elena Rivera (Renée Victor), who is determined to conserve the ban on music started in the family generations ago. When he rebels against the ban, Miguel is transported to the colourful and vibrant world of the Land of the Dead. There, he will uncover a secret that haunts his family’s past.
Upon first look, Coco seems much like 2014’s The Book of Life, which similarly centres around the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead. Additionally, in each film, the protagonist travels to The Land of the Dead. At that, both films are thoroughly enjoyable and aesthetically, both portray the Land of the Dead and its inhabitants beautifully. However the scope of that world in Disney Pixar’s version is much greater, and while The Book of Life focusses on a love story, Coco reverts back to the House of Mouse favourite theme of family. Admirably, it never feels forced or anything less than genuine, and the film admirably paints the extended Mexican family in a joyful, relatable way.
In case you were wondering, the Coco to which the title refers is the name of Miguel’s great-grandmother, and as the studio did so well in Up, Disney Pixar manages to once again pull on the heart strings as you see their affectionate representation of the elderly. Miguel’s Abuelita, meanwhile, proves to be a fiery and witty presence, quickly establishing herself as the character that’s going to garner the most laughs in the first act of the film. The eagerness and sincerity of Miguel make him a thoroughly likable protagonist and you are in for a treat when you meet the characters of the Land of the Dead.
The plot twist of Coco isn’t particularly beguiling, and most viewers will figure it out pretty quickly. But that isn’t where one derives joy from Coco in any case, as the pleasure of the movie comes from its lively characters, picturesque backdrops, and touching narrative, not to mention its gorgeous music (unsurprisingly composed by Michael Giacchino, the man behind the music of Star Trek, Up, Ratatouille and The Incredibles). Aside from it being a great film, the fact that it’s the first nine-digit budget to feature an all-Latino cast is commendable and it’s terrific to see such a charming and emotive representation of Mexican culture – and one that children can relate to and learn from at that.