A mid-level Pixar offering about a young boy transported to the Land of the Dead to learn the truth about his family
“Coco” takes a long time to get where it’s going. This overstuffed journey works around the clock to be respectful of Mexican culture, to tell an engaging, multi-generational tale and to wow viewers with a dose of that old Pixar magic.
In the end, it’s all too much, yet at the same time not enough. Despite its efforts, “Coco” can’t rise above mid-tier Pixar.
Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) is a young boy in a family of shoemakers who have completely disavowed music. In order to play the guitar, he must sneak off to the town square in secret.
Miguel is obsessed with Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt), a megastar Mexican musician, to whom he may be related. When he picks up the late artist’s guitar on Dia de los Muertos, he’s transported into the land of the dead. There, he has to — deep breath — learn the truth of his family’s history, solve a rather complex mystery about the authorship of de la Cruz’s hits and the involvement of a drifter (Gael García Bernal), and race against the clock to ensure he can return home before becoming a spirit himself.
While “Coco” throws a lot at viewers — there’s also a subplot about how souls keep living as long as they are seen in photographs in the real world (sorry, mere memories don’t cut it) — at least its visuals are splendid. The spirit world is rendered in lovely purples and electric pinks, and the skeleton figures in the land of the dead — potentially scary to younger viewers — are friendly and inviting. There’s plenty here to take in.
But the quiet moments, especially with Miguel’s family (the Coco of the title is his great-grandmother) resonate more deeply. They show “Coco” makes its best impression when it’s not trying so hard.
Rated PG for thematic elements
Running time: 109 minutes