As I sat in my theatre seat, pulled a blanket up to my chest and started pealing a tangerine that I had snuck in, I realized something critical:
I was un poquito loco for Pixar’s new film Coco.
After all, here I was, a mere few weeks after seeing it the first time, and indulging in every crowd reaction as the story unfolded.
It’s easy to feel disillusioned by the state of animation with movies like Sherlock Gnomes coming out March of this year, and The Emoji Movie last year. Even Pixar’s last three movie attempts were meh at best. But where the highly anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo floundered, Coco triumphed.
Breathy landscapes, jaunty colours, and vibrant character designs have been a staple of Pixar for years, and Coco has only turned up the heat. But, much Wall-e and Inside Out, Coco is much more than just a pretty face. It’s a movie bolstered by raw emotion, relatability, and suave storytelling; it stays true to its characters while fully indulging in your classic coming of age tale.
The only grey area, I’d say, is the initial conflict. Basically, in a nutshell, due to Miguel’s great-great-grandfather abandoning the family for the love of music, his great-great-grandmother, Imelda, thought of music as a curse, and rid it from their lives. This teaching was passed down through the generations and saw little issue until Miguel was born. Because, of course, he feels simply compelled by music.
That creates an obvious rift in the family.
Banning all music from your life is a pretty extreme response to feeling burned by a musician. What’s even more extreme is expecting your family to ban music from their lives too. It comes off a little contrived, because really, who does that? That said, as contrived as I think it may be, it’s really not that big an issue. It’s simply used to set the stage for a beautiful story.
The movie takes place on ‘Dia de Los Muertos’ in Mexico – a day that’s meant to honour, and give to the dead. Our protagonist, through a series of missteps from both he and his family, ends up stealing from the dead instead, which turns out to be a big no-no. That decision gets him sent to the Land of the Dead, and that’s when the movie really takes off.
Unsurprisingly, this movie largely centers around family, with Miguel interacting mostly with his bloodline in both this life and the next.
The 1-hour 49-minute runtime is chalked full of everything you’ve come to expect from Pixar, including a third-act twist and danceable tunes. While formulaic in structure, Coco picks up major steam with its ability to tell a story that transcends race or religion, taps into the core of human nature, and explores elements of life and death.
While I’m not Mexican and don’t know much about their traditions, it’s clear that the creators wanted authenticity. From what I can tell, they didn’t half-ass it, and they really tried not to create a caricature of the culture. And from what I’ve read, Mexicans agree.
Having seen it twice now, I can honestly say without hyperbole that this is one of my favourite Pixar films ever made. It deserves to sit at the same table with Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Wall-e, and I think it will in a few years.
Upon second viewing, there was one difference that should be noted: as promised, Pixar spared us of the dreary and monotonous Olaf’s Frozen Adventure that set off a tiny ragefest throughout the continent in December.
Most of us who check out the latest Disney or Pixar flick in theatres are accustomed to a 5ish minute short before the feature film, hell, some of us even enjoy it… but this was different.
The ‘short’ was anything but and had people confused as to whether they’d stepped into 2013.
In an attempt to get butts in seats, execs thought to plug the made-for-tv 21-minute ‘Frozen’ holiday special before Coco. And that, combined with previews, pushed Coco back a good 30-40 minutes before it started.
What’s worse, is that the special was bleh at best.
But where Olaf’s Frozen Adventure left us – unsatisfied and agitated – Coco picked up the reins and breathed new life and possibility into the future of animation.
If you asked me if I wanted to see it a third time in theatres, I’d ask where and when.
Also, uh… bring tissues!