2015 saw Pixar give us one of their greatest films, in the form of Inside Out. After that, though, we’ve been treated to what in my opinion is the absolute worst Pixar effort ever, and a couple of decent/good sequels that no one cared too much about. Back with an original story, can Pixar win us back with Coco?
Set against the backdrop of The Day of the Dead, Coco uses the Mexican holiday and folklore to tell a story about the value of family.
Miguel has music bursting from his heart, dancing through his veins, and shooting out his finger tips like the weird light at the end of the good Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. Not literally, of course, but his passion for the guitar and song are intense. Slight problem – his family forbids any sort of music to enter their lives because of what his great great grandfather’s musical career did to them. His yearning for music is about to lead him on an unexpected journey that will change not only his life and the lives of his family, but of his ancestors as well.
Beautifully realized, Coco is, at the very least, a legitimate work of art. The Day of the Dead iconography is gorgeous and, well, alive. The visuals and touching music blend into one. As is the Pixar preferred MO, humor and emotion come together in a meaningful story that doesn’t get bogged down by sentimentality, and allows for multiple levels of appreciation from all ages. The message on the value of family is both straightforward and almost subtle in that it just rides along so nicely and naturally with the sweet and interesting story being told.
A few gripes – it grows more predictable as the story progresses, with certain reveals and plot points seeming more inevitable than revelatory. The visitation of the land of the dead brings up a number of morbid and even troubling issues such as even the afterlife ending for everyone, eventually. And why do most of the skeletal inhabitants look so young?
As a vehicle for this story, as a parable for the importance of remembering that where you come from shapes who you are, and that family should be treasured, the Day of the Dead setting works quite well. I never found it to seem hoaky, pandering, or disprespectful – though I can’t of course, speak for those whose culture it purports to reflect.
Filled with attention to detail, clever moments, lovely music, and some of the best animated skeletons since Jack Sparrow crossed swords with Barbosa, Coco is a modern masterpiece in many respects, though I do have to wonder how I might feel about it given a second, closer look.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
Brother Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Four out of five hats
Coco visits 3,987 theaters, including 3D, November 22