This holiday week we should be thankful for Pixar Animation, which continually gives us quality, heartfelt animated feature films. It’s latest, “Coco,” is no exception.
Young Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez) loves music. Unfortunately, his family has banned it. Three generations earlier, the family matriarch (and her daughter Coco) was abandoned by her husband — an aspiring musician. Mama Imelda (Alanna Ubach) went on to form a successful shoe-making business in a small Mexican village. Music was never allowed in the house.
Coco, Miguel’s great-grandmother, is wheelchair bound and pretty much lost in her own world. Grandma Abuelita (Renee Victor) is in charge of keeping the home and business music free.
While everyone else in the family is content making shoes, Miguel dreams of being a great musician like his hero — the late Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). Miguel decides to enter a music contest at the Day of the Dead festival, but needs a guitar.
He decides to borrow one from Ernesto’s mausoleum, but when he takes the instrument something strange happens. Namely, he winds up in the Land of the Dead.
Miguel wants to go home, but Imelda will not help him unless he vows to give up music. So instead he seeks help from Ernesto, but to reach the popular singer, he will need help from a questionable character named Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal).
“Coco” has all the familiar elements of a Pixar film. A smart, tightly woven plot; charming characters; a moving, family-friendly message; a goofy animal; a few nice songs; some thrilling action scenes; and gorgeous, dazzling animation. The Land of the Dead is surprisingly colorful and inspired.
So why don’t I rank it among Pixar’s greatest films? Because it’s a little too familiar. So many elements here have been done before in countless animated features. Granted, that won’t bother the target audience, but it takes some of the thrill out of it for an old, jaded dude like me. And the final, climactic scene with Miguel and Coco doesn’t just tug at your heartstrings — it pulls at them like a power winch.
Still, “Coco” is shiny and pretty and funny and smart and follows its familiar path well.