Coco is easily going to win the box office over Thanksgiving weekend—but is it worth your family’s dime? Directed by Lee Unkrich, Pixar’s latest movie features the voices of Alfonso Arau, Benjamin Bratt, Jaime Camil, Sofía Espinosa, Gael García Bernal, Anthony Gonzalez, Selene Luna, Ana Ofelia Murguia, Edward James Olmos, Alanna Ubach and Renée Victor.
Despite his family’s generations-old ban on music, 12-year-old Miguel (Gonzalez) dreams of becoming a musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (Bratt). After being dissuaded by his grandmother, Miguel strums his ancestor’s guitar and winds up in the mystical and colorful Land of the Dead. Along the way, he encounters a trickster, Hector (García Bernal). Together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.
Here’s what critics are saying about Coco:
• “Not only does the Disney outfit’s 19th feature…emerge as Pixar’s most original effort since Inside Out, it’s also among its most emotionally resonant, touching on themes of belonging common to Finding Dory and the Unkrich-directed Toy Story 3,” The Hollywood Reporter‘s Michael Rechtshaffen writes, adding, “At every imaginative juncture, the filmmakers create a richly woven tapestry of comprehensively researched storytelling, fully dimensional characters, clever touches both tender and amusingly macabre and vivid, beautifully textured visuals.” In short, Rechtshaffen writes, “It’s a safe bet that audiences the world over will go loco for Coco.”
• “With its cast of skeletons and macabre ‘I see dead people’ vibe, Coco may be the strangest thing ever to come out of the Pixar animation factory. That’s a good thing. Their latest animated movie finds the company spreading its wings and pushing into new territory, including betrayal and murder, without neglecting its family franchise responsibilities. It’s a tricky business, which Pixar, mostly, pulls off in high style,” Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers writes. There’s a good amount of backstory to get through, but the movie “charms itself into our good graces when it enters the netherworld, a neon-colored nonstop fiesta that’s a blast even if you’re just a bag of bones.” Overall, he writes, “Coco brims over with visual pleasures, comic energy and emotional wallop. The climax is a real weeper as well: There’s something indelibly moving about a child getting in touch with the ancestors he’s lost and forging a bond that can last over time.”
• “Like so many Pixar films before it, Coco indulges the belief that kids know best, while it’s up to adults to come around,” Variety‘s Peter Debruge writes. “Though undeniably gorgeous, none of this feels terribly original, from the film’s message to the look of the Mexican underworld, which so recently inspired another computer-animated feature, 2014’s The Book of Life.” Even so, it all comes together. “Coco‘s creators clearly had the perfect ending in mind before they’d nailed down all the other details, and though the movie drags in places, and features a few too many childish gags…the story’s sincere emotional resolution earns the sobs it’s sure to inspire.”
• “One of the pleasures of a new Pixar feature is the chance to be amazed by what animation can do. Sometimes you witness a big, bold breakthrough, like the computer-assisted rendering of fur in Monsters, Inc., of water in Finding Nemo, or of metal in Cars. The innovations in Coco are no less satisfying for being of a more subtle kind,” The New York Times‘ A.O. Scott writes. Compared to other films in Pixar’s canon, Coco is rife with “captivating originality and flair, and with roving, playful pop-culture erudition.” Its few faults aside, he writes, Coco is also “one of those Pixar movies that attempt a conceptual breakthrough, an application of the bright colors and open emotionalism of modern, mainstream animation to an unlikely zone of experience.”
• Coco has “undeniable charm” and more than a few moments of pure Pixar inspiration,” Entertainment Weekly‘s Leah Greenblatt writes. “But the vividness of the narrative never quite matches the riotous swirl of color and culture on screen—and neither do the songs, sadly, for how central they are to the story. Instead, Coco settles into something gentler but still irrefutably sweet: a movie that plays safe with the status quo, even as it breaks with it.”
• USA Today‘s Brian Truitt calls Coco “effervescent, clever and thoughtful.” It’s “one of Pixar’s most gorgeously animated outings in some time. The Land of the Dead pops like an afterlife Las Vegas, and Miguel’s town and its residents are impressively photorealistic.” Matthew Aldrich and co-director Molina‘s screenplay “sticks closely to the Pixar template in terms of coming-of-age and find-your-identity themes and is unabashed in its emotional manipulation,” he adds. “But by the time you realize it, your heart’s been wholly warmed and there’s no going back.”
• “If an animated movie is going to offer children a way to process death, it’s hard to envision a more spirited, touching and breezily entertaining example than Coco, Pixar’s full-throttled foray into the intricately celebratory world of Mexico’s annual remembrance festival Día de los Muertos,” The Wrap‘s Robert Abele writes. “In unfurling a story of dreams and curses, tradition and redemption…the animation juggernaut has once more shown how its storytelling acumen and visual splendors are still the surest dance partners in movies today.” Coco is “swirling and vibrantly hued,” yet it also contains “the twists and turns” of “black-and-white melodramas.” While it’s “less jokey” than other Pixar films, “that doesn’t mean it isn’t laugh-out-loud funny.”
• “Coco is as indebted to Ratatouille as it is to Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, but the combination of sensibilities and the colorful, semi-spooky milieu of the afterlife realm where most of the film is set is not at all unwelcome,” Vulture‘s Emily Yoshida writes. But its plot has some holes. “Dramatically, it’s a little bit of a head-scratcher,” she says, “like someone took a plot summary of Ratatouille and hastily replaced every mention of the word ‘cooking’ with ‘music,’ assuming the tried-and-true Pixar formula of self-discovery and individualism would hold strong.”
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