Pixar’s latest, long-in-production epic Coco is a beautifully rendered, unusually moving piece with a psychological complexity and some strikingly dark twists that could prove too much for smaller children.
In a coolly stylised opening flashback sequence, Mexican lad Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) explains how his family’s complicated, multi-generational hatred of music is all to do with the long-ago abandonment of his great-great-great grandmother Imelda Rivera. This is proving a real problem as Miguel wants to be a musician, just like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz, a musical star of old movies we see in faithful-looking B+W glimpses. He’s not giving up, even if it means going against his relatives, who work at their shoe-making business to keep the chance of music intruding to an absolute minimum.
When the Day of the Dead arrives and Miguel borrows a guitar from Ernesto’s celebrity tomb, he’s transported to the Land of the Dead, a magical society of happy deceased people now skeletal-looking and with its own complicated rules and laws. Miguel and his dog Dante (get it?) have a time limit to find his way back home. After meeting his dear departed family (including Alanna Ubach as Imelda and actor/director Alfonso Arau as Papá Julio), he tries to locate Ernesto, a legendary figure here and eventually voiced with great cheesy smarm by Benjamin Bratt.
The intricate nature of this Land should prove puzzling for younger types and there’s plenty of darkness here too, especially when it’s revealed that these Dead fade away forever when they’re forgotten on the other side. The character of Héctor (voiced by Gael García Bernal) is a complicated one too, from the moment he’s introduced trying to impersonate Frida Kahlo. There are also plenty of depictions of one of the creepier notions about the supernatural and all of your late lamented rellies: yes, they’re always right there beside you and watching, even if we can’t see them, which is a little unsettling to think about.
Co-directed by Pixar regulars Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, Coco features intriguing tensions between the need to love your nearest and dearest yet be ready to say goodbye, and the need to understand and respect the past.
Rated PG. Coco is in currently being previewed in cinemas, and will be in wide release from Boxing Day.