Coco Review
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Throughout the years, Pixar has taken audiences into the future, back to the prehistoric past, under the seas, and into the human brain. Their movies have starred cars and monsters and a bunch of lovable toys. And now, in Coco, the studio ventures into the world of the dead for a beautiful cultural adventure.

Coco tells the story of a musical young boy named Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez), who dreams of one day performing his music for the world. The only problem is that his family banned music generations ago, after his great-great-grandfather left with a guitar in hand and never returned. But as his family prepares to celebrate the Day of the Dead, Miguel chooses his music over his family. He ends up transported to the Land of the Dead—where, with the help of an outsider named Héctor (Gael García Bernal), he sets out in search of answers.

The story of Miguel’s determination to pursue a dream that his family just doesn’t understand is a familiar one. It’s a story that’s been told time and time again. But I doubt that the story has been told with such rich cultural touches—nor with such breathtaking animation.

Coco is more than just another tale of a headstrong young character on a quest to follow his dreams. It’s a story that’s steeped in rich traditions—traditions that will be new and unfamiliar for many young viewers. And in following Miguel on his journey, viewers will also learn more about his culture—about the music, the celebrations, and the importance of remembering and respecting our ancestors.

Admittedly, some might be frightened by the cast of skeletons—and by their big, colorful spirit guides. The film certainly has some dark moments—and some scary ones, too. It is, after all, set in a world that’s inhabited by the spirits of the dead—not all of whom died of natural causes. But it also keeps things relatively lighthearted with plenty of musical numbers and silliness.

Meanwhile, as is always the case with Pixar’s films, the animation here is strikingly beautiful. It’s so remarkable, in fact, that it’s almost distracting—and you could find yourself so mesmerized by the sparkle and glow of the setting that you’ll lose track of the story. The Land of the Dead is vibrant and colorful, all glittering flower petals and phosphorescence—yet another artistic triumph for a studio that’s know for its cutting-edge animation.

With just a few exceptions, Pixar is known for its stunning, sophisticated animated films—and that’s certainly true of Coco. It may not tell an original story, but its lovable characters, its spectacular animation, and its cultural lessons are not to be missed.

Blu-ray Review:
The 4K/Blu-ray release of Pixar’s stunning Day of the Dead adventure comes loaded with extras. In addition to the usually commentary track and deleted scenes, you’ll find a wide variety of behind-the-scenes features. You can explore the film’s music and fashion, you can learn about the dogs of Mexico, and you can watch a Mexican guitar maker craft a real version of the guitar from the film. Or you can travel to Mexico with the Pixar crew in A Thousand Pictures a Day—a fascinating feature that shows the inspiration for the characters, the sets, and more.

There are also a couple of extras that will have aspiring artists (like my daughter) scrambling to find paper and pens and scissors. How to Draw a Skeleton really can teach anyone to draw a skeleton (including my five-year-old). But How to Make Papel Picado is a little more rushed and complicated—and my little artist eventually gave up in frustration.

One of my favorite features, though, is Paths to Pixar: Coco, in which some of the Latino members of the Pixar team talk about their background, their culture, and the importance of making a movie like Coco.

Whatever your interests, though, there are so many interesting features here to keep fans of this strikingly beautiful adventure through the Land of the Dead entertained for hours. If you’re able to pull the kids away from the movie for a while, be sure to dig out that third bonus disc and explore the extras, too.

Listen to the review on Reel Discovery:

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