This movie has been out in the states for a while now, and it’s made loads of money as well as the critics loving it. Now that it’s out in the UK, it’ll be interesting to see if we’re more cynical about it. I doubt it though, because the short answer is that it’s brilliant. The film is set in Mexico and is based around the ‘Day of the Dead’ holiday. Miguel is a young boy and has dreams of becoming a musician, but playing music is banned in his family after his great – great grandfather abandoned his wife and child to pursue a musical career. His family are tight and they all make shoes together – something Miguel has no desire of doing. Through strange circumstances whilst trying to play a legendary guitar, Miguel ends up in the land of the dead and has to find a way back to the living.
Pixar are usually pretty reliable at firing out a fun animated film. Sometimes they reach for something more and this is definitely one of those efforts. The story is actually quite complex, but the narrative writing is so strong that everything feels straight-forward. It becomes a point A to point B kind of thing, yet there’s a lot more wrapped around it. The main theme is death, and obviously that’s a tricky subject to handle but the film does it with grace. There is no morbidity in its execution or a sense of misery looming over. The most touching moments are when it looks at family, music and the absence of music. From this there is an incredible sequence towards the end about old age and dementia that utterly broke me.
Like all Pixar films, it’s full of colour. However there’s a shine and a real complexion to the colour in this film. When it gets to the land of the dead it will floor you just looking at the landscape the director and the animators have created. It’s so rich and vibrant that every scene in that location is impossible not to enjoy. For the majority of the run-time the film is played as an adventure, and a coming of age sort of drama, rather than going for constant laughs. This means that the film isn’t laugh out loud funny like other recent Pixar movies (Sadness from Inside Out), but it’s not trying to be. The line ‘it makes you think’ is silly because everything makes you think, but perhaps this film makes you think with a bit more optimism. It’s essentially fairly lights attached to an existential crisis that is superbly well written, so that it can be joyous whilst also being extremely resolved.
(I’m struggling to find flaws in this film. The only one would be that generally I have a disconnect emotionally from animated films – especially if they’re about humans. So if you’re like me the middle to final act may drag on slightly.)
Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket?