Coco (2017)

We’ve been watching so many animated movies lately. And the truth is, so many of them blow away real movies. This movie wrecked us. It’s one of the most emotional journeys I’ve seen in some time and that’s no exaggeration.

Based on an original idea by Lee Unkrich (who directed Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo) and co-directed by him and Adrian Molina (a Pixar storyboard artist who was directing his first film), Coco is all about a 12-year-old Mexican child named Miguel. He dreams of being a musician while the rest of his family is content to make shoes and wonders why he should care so much about his family history as the Day of the Dead draws near.

Miguel figures out that Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt when he speaks and Antonio Sol when he sings) is his great-grandfather whose leaving the family made everyone hate music. He steals the revered man’s guitar and runs to the plaza to enter a talent contest. However, he has crossed over to the land of the dead and must now reconnect with the relatives he never wanted to know about, earn the respect of his great-grandfather and get back to our world before the sun rises.

Along with the con artist Héctor, who is being forgotten by his family in our world, Miguel will learn the truth about his family, his culture and the music that he loves. I don’t really want to spoil much more than that — this movie was pure joy from start to finish.

This film took six years to make — much longer than other Pixar movies. You can really see the care on the bonus features, where we learn about the inspiration for Dante, the Xoloitzcuintli dog.

Coco also features many Mexican celebrities, including El Santo, Cantinflas, Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Emiliano Zapata, María Félix and painter Frida Kahlo, who saved the Xolo dog breed along with her husband, Diego Rivera. Dante is also inspired by that. Director Lee Unkrich claims that there are more celebrities hidden within the land of the dead, too.

Boasting a cast rich with authentic latino voices, the lone exception is John Ratzenberger, Pixar’s good-luck charm, who has been in every one of their films. Here, he plays a skeleton whose dentist remembers him in the living world.

What really struck me was the gorgeous near-realism of the animation, which contrasted with the cartoony elements. This is the first time that I’ve felt that computerized animation is on a par with the traditional cel era.

This is a bit rough for kids in parts, but ten-year-olds or older should be able to handle it. It comes to Netflix on May 29, so get ready to check it out. And grab some tissues. We cried from start to finish.

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