You know you're watching a different kind of Pixar film when a skeleton in a cowboy hat says to a small boy: "I can't wait for you to die."

It's a dark joke, for sure, probably one that only the adults in the audience will enjoy.

But in Coco, a film that deftly walks that fine line between kiddie thrills and more adult black humour, it works.

This is, after all, a film from Pixar, the animated powerhouse that has made movies for kids and adults for more than three decades.


Nineteen films in lands Coco, which does for Mexico what Moana did for the Pacific while proving Pixar hasn't lost any of its spark or storytelling flair.

At this point, they're really just showing off.

Coco follows Miguel Rivera, a 12-year-old boy who, in his attempts to go against his family's wishes and become a musician, finds himself stuck in the Land of the Dead.

It's at that point, around a quarter of the way in, that parents of under-5s should note that Coco gets a little dark. Thanks to the frequent appearance of skeletons and spooky Halloween-style masks, things could get a little overwhelming.

At the screening I was at, at least one mum led her under-5 out of the cinema, scared away by the film's visuals.

But that's also where Coco sparks into life. It's in the Land of the Dead that Miguel joins forces with Hector, the skeleton with a death wish, and the pair becomes an eccentrically endearing odd couple in a multi-layered roller-coaster ride.

To explain any more of the plot, which is basically Miguel's real-life search for his father, would be to give away far too many spoilers. Rest assured, while it might be a film about the dead, Coco vibrates with life.

Much of that is because of the music, which gets a starring role thanks to the efforts of Michael Giacchino, and Frozen's Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez in Remember Me, a song that might already be rattling around in your head like Let It Go did a few years back.

You won't be mad at it, because, at its heart, Coco uses its Mexican setting to tell a universal story about generations coming together.

There might not be a single mention about Christmas, but that, surely, makes it the perfect Christmas movie.

New Zealand might have had to wait an extra month to see it, but it's worth it - Coco is a feel-good family classic.

Starring: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael Garcia Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
Director: Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina
Rating: PG
Verdict: Mexico's Day of the Dead comes alive