Pixar has dealt in the themes of memory and/or family for so long that it’s a wonder it took them this long to hit upon The Day of the Dead as a setting. A whole holiday dedicated to honoring and remembering your ancestors, complete with the visual splendor of ofrendas covered in flaming orange marigold petals and skeletal Calaveras just waiting to be animated. For narrative drive, they’ve taken a page out of Ratatouille and given us a frustrated artist whose family just doesn’t understand: 12-year-old Miguel, who longs to play guitar like his hero (and also his hometown’s favorite son), Ernesto De La Cruz. Trouble is, he comes from the only family in Mexico that doesn’t like music, due to a rascal four generations back who set out to play for the world and never came home. (Thanks for nothing, ancestors.) When Miguel sets out to follow his hero’s lead and seize his moment, he winds up further from home than he could have imagined: the realm of the dead. And getting back will mean growing up. Not entirely original, but almost entirely delightful, from the fantastical glowing afterlife to the street-dog sidekick to the surprisingly sharp critique of celebrity culture. Lee Unkrich directs. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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