Pixar’s latest masterpiece set in Mexico

From its inception, Pixar Animation Studios has been met with increasing critical and commercial appreciation: from its acclaimed “Toy Story” franchise to “The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo” and “Ratatouille.”

It wasn’t until the “Cars” franchise that the studio met its first roadblock, but it has been rebuilding that trust in quality with successes, like “Inside Out” and “Brave.” Now, Pixar returns with another addition to its library, based on Mexican folklore and the holiday of “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead,” and Pixar has definitely hit another home run.

The film follows young and impressionable Miguel Rivera (Anthony Gonzalez), the youngest in a family of shoemakers who have completely banned music from their lives due to Miguel’s great-great grandfather having abandoned the family for his musical dreams. However, wishing to follow his dreams, which are encouraged by his idolization of deceased music legend Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt)—and by the only person in his family he likes, Coco (Ana Ofelia Murguia)—Miguel decides to enter a contest.

By taking de la Cruz’s legendary guitar, he enters the Land of the Dead, where his relatives try to guide him back home while still abiding by the music ban. Undeterred, Miguel journeys through the land in search of de la Cruz with the assistance of Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal), who wishes to aid Miguel in order to not be forgotten in the living world.

Once again, Pixar has presented the audience with great visual splendor in its interpretation of the festive Mexican holiday and its respective land. The writing is exceptional, giving the film the emotional depth and humor that characterizes Pixar. The musical score, as well as the songs, provide a great backdrop to the action, while also providing complexity to the plot through stories conveyed by song.

The performances from all parties involved are spectacular, especially the interplay between Gonzalez and Bernal. Their onscreen chemistry helps to keep everything on a steady, strong pace as the film moves towards its greatly emotional climax, providing heaps of possible tear-jerking moments, especially when a certain song on the soundtrack makes its quiet and resonant reprisal.

Overall, the film is a great depiction of the festivities organized and celebrated by the people of Mexico, and their heritage is presented with such delicacy and respect that no one else could have done it better than Pixar. Not even the similarly-themed “Book of Life,” which came out three years ago, could reach the same levels of emotional gravitas and depth. This was truly an unprecedented gem.

Film: “Coco”
Directed by: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina
Release Date: Nov. 22
Rating: 5 out of 5