Coco - Review


Pixar has been the quintessential player in the animation game since 1995. Toy Story broke the mold - it was a children's story that didn't have to dumb things down. It spoke to all ages, and didn't have to resort to nothing but fart jokes to get kids to laugh. Pixar's newest venture, Coco, gets back to Pixar's basics and shows what the brand can be when they aren't trying to sell toys through their Cars franchise.

Continue reading to see my thoughts on Coco. There will be minor spoilers throughout.

While film is the medium the story is presented in, the story is unabashedly about the love of music. Baby Driver earlier this year was a love story to music (albeit with violence, heists and all sorts of other illegal activities). Coco is about following your dream and doing what you love to do, which happens to be music. Both stories convey the passion for music well.

The film is absolutely beautiful to look at. Pixar has come a long way since the Toy Story days. The bright vivid colors would definitely keep a child's attention, but it's the use of it in the Land of the Dead that is interesting. Most times, a physical representation of death is dark, bleak colors. But this movie takes place during Dia de los Muertos, so it's a celebration of the people who have died. In this case, it is looked back on with sweet warmth and reminiscence. Plus, getting children used to the concept of death this way - a certainty in life that they will be exposed to - was a smart move.

When Miguel gets transported to the land of the dead, you see anthropomorphized skeletons, that are actually quite adorable. The bulk of the film takes place in the land of the dead. Miguel needs his dead families blessing to return back, but he wants a family members blessing that will let him play music. So he goes on the search.

Miguel's great-grandmother, the daughter of his great-great-grandfather who "cursed the family with music" is named Coco. I spent the first half or more of the film trying to figure out why that was the title of the film. I thought it should have been music related - or have something to do with the Day of the Dead or to Miguel himself. There is a big reveal during the third act that finally makes the title click and it makes the film all the sweeter.


It's great that the entire cast is Latino or Hispanic. It gives authenticity to a story that takes entirely in Mexico. They do all speak English, for obvious reasons, but I think it would be interesting to see a version entirely in Spanish with English subtitles. A movie for kids would never do that, other than the regular dubbing that happens for all films, but it would be fun for cinephiles who want the most authentic experience possible.

As all good children's stories do, Coco teaches a lesson. That being follow your passion, and do what you love! The way Miguel's family reacted to music and the way Miguel had to hide his love for it can be substituted for many things. It could be seen as a metaphor for an LGBTQ person not being able to come out to their family. It also reminded me of Megan Phelps - a woman who used to be in the Westboro Baptist Church because her family ran it, and left because she couldn't face her family's ideals anymore. (There is a wonderful episode of Smodcast with Kevin Smith that tells her story). It can be interpreted in many different ways. It is certainly a layer that a kid wouldn't see, but can be debated by adults, and that is the wonderful thing about powerful art.

Lately, Pixar has been stumbling more often than they used to. The only thing of note they've made since Toy Story 3 in 2010 is Inside Out. So Coco is a much needed win for them. Director Lee Unkrich is no stranger to Pixar movies, and did a wonderful job presenting this story on screen. It was a bit rushed, but that's because the run time in kid's stories are usually shorter. The movie clocks in at 1 hour and 49 minutes - including credits. The story probably would have benefited from an extra ten minutes or so, but they made it work for the most part.

There were a few things I didn't understand, like how animals worked, they seemed to be able to go back and forth between the dead and the alive much easier than humans, and why they are able to get powers and stuff. Also, they seem to be able to change their appearances severely - color wise and the small kitten can turn into a large tiger. Also, the rules about being forgotten seemed to be stretched to serve the plot, but overall it wasn't anything major.

Coco is a positive, emotional, inspirational film. It is family friendly, and a great holiday movie to bond over. This was a step in the right direction, and hopefully they can continue that trend when The Incredibles 2 - one of the only Pixar franchises that actually warrants a sequel - comes out next year.

Pixar's Coco is now playing in theaters everywhere.

Comments

  1. They have a Spanish version with English subtitles! Netflix!

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