Time Out says
Being dead has never looked as fun as it does in Pixar’s latest adventure, bursting with skeletons, magical spells and Mexico’s annual Day of the Dead
Pixar follows the marvelously mind-bending Inside Out with a Mexico-set adventure that bubbles with wit and daring. Effortlessly gliding between kid-friendly spectacle and heart-tugging emotion by way of surrealist touches and a hilariously specific recurring joke about Frida Kahlo’s unibrow, Coco is a goofy joy from start to finish.
Committing full bore to its setting – Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival – Coco introduces its hero, 12-year-old Miguel (voiced by newcomer Anthony Gonzalez), as a frustrated musician growing up in a family where music is banned. On the eve of the festivities, he pays a visit to an ofrenda, his clan’s ancestral altar, where an encounter with a magical guitar sends him spinning into the afterlife on a quest to find his great-great-grandfather, a puffed-up matinee idol, and win his blessing to become a musician.
Cue songs, color and a shady prankster called Héctor (voiced by Gael García Bernal) with a speciality in physical comedy. There’s a scrappy canine sidekick, skeletons galore and beautifully imagined barrios crammed into this undead fantasia. It’s a glorious tribute to Mexican tradition that tips a sombrero to the animated work of Ray Harryhausen and Hayao Miyazaki, too.
The story occasionally seems a little too deferential to its folkloric inspirations. Giant spirit animals swoop in and out of the action, shifting characters from A to B a touch too conveniently. They feel like they belong in a different movie, possibly one where they team up with the eagles in The Hobbit and set up a new form of Uber.
These are smallish grumbles, though. In the spirit of writer-director Lee Unkrich’s last movie, Toy Story 3, genuinely tough themes are tackled (illegal immigration and dementia) without the mood ever souring. If it’s a tier below the studio’s very best, its freshness still bodes well for Pixar’s future. As sweet as sugared churros and as vibrant as a fiesta, Coco is a charm.