Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez), a 12-year-old boy, has a passion for music and secretly plays his guitar to the music of his idol, musician/actor Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Abuelita (voice of Renée Victor) strictly forbids anyone in the family to play music ever since Miguel's great-great-grandfather abandoned his great-great grandmother, Mama Coco (voice of Alanna Noel Ubach) and great-grandmother Mama Coco (voice of Ana Ofelia Murguia), to pursue a music career. After he sneaks into a mausoleum during the Day of the Dead festivities and steals a guitar belonging to Ernesto de la Cruz, Miguel and his cute dog, Dante, end up crossing over the Land of the Dead where he meets the shady Héctor (voice of Gael García Bernal), who serves as his guide, along with deceased relatives. Miguel needs his family's blessings in order to escape the Land of the Dead and seeks the help of Héctor, but first he has to help Héctor who will disappear unless his loved ones on Earth remember him.
Coco, the new Pixar film, is an exhilarating and enchanting adventure. The screenplay by Adrian Molina and Matthew Aldrich has just the right blend of humor and heart with complex characters who seem true-to-life, whether they're likable or not. Even the film's most villaneous character isn't really a villain, but a flawed human being. Just when you think the story will be going in a certain direction, it offers some surprises up its sleeve. The twists will not be revealed here, but it's worth mentioning that the film becomes increasingly poignant as it progresses. Miguel is a hero well worth rooting for and caring about. He comes from a dysfunctional family and struggles to pursue his dreams of becoming a musician, so he's relatable to anyone who's ever had a dream. The screenplay also succeeds in finding an terrific blend of light and dark elements while avoiding schmaltz or being too scary. Many scenes are delightful and uplifting, but, like in any great Disney movie going back to Bambi, there are some sad ones as well when some dark themes rise to the surface. You'll undergo a roller-coaster ride of emotions throughout Coco which makes it among the Best Animated films of the year.
On a purely aesthetic level, Coco is a marvel to look at with its dazzling display of colors. If you think that Land of the Dead would be a depressing place to be, think again. It's got plenty of lively characters and breathtakingly beautiful locations that will leave you in a sense of awe. The filmakers have created a world with plenty of attention to detail that reflects their wonderful imagination. Kids will be thrilled to admire all of the eye candy while joining Miguel on his journey. Adults will have the added bonus of appreciating the film's layers of emotional depth and profound messages about family which culminate in a third act that will bring you to tears---unless you're made out of stone. Kudos to the filmmakers for making an animated film that doesn't just have great CGI, but also a compelling story with memorable characters grounded in realism. At a running time of 1 hour and 49 minutes, Coco is a perfect holiday treat for the entire family. It would make for an interesting double feature with Coraline for kids and What Dreams May Come for adults.