Pixar’s newest film Coco reasserted both the company’s superior animation abilities and general film-making prowess.

When 12-year-old Miguel decides to rebel against his music-hating family during the Day of the Dead, he finds himself lost in the Land of the Dead, in need of a blessing in order to cross back to the land of the living. Along the way, Miguel learns more about his culture, music and family.

Coco is Pixar’s most musical film, and it’s simply delightful. The songs are fun and catchy, and reveal a lot about the characters. With his family’s animosity to music, the songs must carry a certain weight and excitement to them, showing how Miguel would really feel. This energy feels real and exciting.

The animation glows beautifully. Even early scenes in Miguel’s hometown amaze because the characters are so lifelike. There’s nothing cartoony about them. The Land of the Dead, however, is probably the most beautiful thing Pixar has ever put to the screen. Countless lights, houses, flower petals and spirit animals bring the world to life. Every painstaking detail makes the Land of the Dead feel lively.

Anthony Gonzalez perfectly performs Miguel’s center-stage role. He has a charming voice that carries into his singing, and he can deliver lines with a punch or with humor.

The film’s theme lends itself to countless morbid jokes, where it would be easy to take the humor too far. Instead, Coco seizes every possible moment for levity, while still giving real gravity to the death and loss people experience. It’s a balance that seems nearly impossible to strike, but the movie nails it perfectly.

Coco‘s biggest strength is its originality. As with Inside Out, there’s very little out there like this, but Pixar entered uncharted waters with complete confidence. The plot, character arcs, jokes, songs and general feel of the movie all glow with a creativity that makes it seem like Pixar put in a serious effort to make a fun, family-friendly original movie. That effort paid off.

The only pitfall of the movie is its predictability. Though the story is original, certain elements are easy to spot several scenes ahead of time. That said, the movie’s main audience is children and families, and even then, the elements are still forgivable for the pure emotion and excitement of the movie.

Pixar’s newest movie is also its newest triumph. It’s a phenomenal adventure that is sure to join the growing list of classic family movies with cultural impact.

4/4 shells