I am always amazed at how consistently great Pixar is. I have seen every Pixar movie there is outside of “The Good Dinosaur,” and in my opinion, the only bad movie they have made is “Cars 2.” They constantly produce new and exciting worlds and produce highly compelling stories that tug at your heartstrings. With “Coco,” they have produced yet another great coming of age story mostly set in a brand-new world: the next one.
Before I get into the movie itself, I should add one note on the movie-going experience. One often-charming aspect of new Pixar movies is the short film they play each movie. They are often 5-10 minute films that tell a concise story and often range from decent to really great. So, when I went to see this movie I was completely caught off guard by the 22-minute slog that is “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure.” It was torture. I loved “Frozen,” but wow was this annoying and bad. Please see “Coco,” but show up 30 minutes late. Twenty minutes of previews followed by 22 minutes of Olaf quips and seven songs were not the best primer for “Coco.”
The movie “Coco” follows a young boy named Miguel. He is an aspiring musician and worships “the greatest musician who ever lived,” the late Ernesto De La Cruz. His dream of becoming a musician is complicated by the fact that his family has made music taboo for nearly 80 years. This is because Miguel’s great-grandmother, the titular Coco, was abandoned by her father to become a musician. This causes tension within the family, and it all comes to a head when his grandmother breaks his guitar, driving him to run away. When he tries to steal Ernesto’s legendary guitar, he is trapped in the afterlife, cursed but alive. The rest of the plot follows Miguel as he travels with his guide Héctor to find Ernesto in the afterlife so he can return home. Along the way, he learns a lot of lessons about family, life, death and himself. He also learns a lesson that we all should never meet our heroes.
Overall, it was a great movie. The music was good, the animation was beautiful, and the story was good. The trope of the person you are traveling with and forming a relationship with turning out to be a secret is fairly telegraphed but remains compelling. It is a trope done in stories such as “Kubo and the Two Strings” and “Eragon”. The movie was not as emotionally moving as “Inside Out” or “Up,” but there were still plenty of moving moments. It was a rock-solid movie that has very few holes in it.
One of the most interesting similarities in the Pixar films is who they choose to make their villains. They are not truly evil villains, but they are real ones. In 2017, these are the villains that we have been discovering in our own lives, with an almost overwhelming occurrence. It is certainly interesting that Pixar has been telling stories about these types of villains for so long.
Pixar has made it a gimmick to tell unexpected stories in settings and perspectives we have never seen before. The stories of living cars, living toys, sentient bugs, sentient rats, etc. What “Coco” does is something both similar and different. Instead of showing us a world they made up that we never see on screen, they show us one that exists that is rarely seen on screen. Historically, in film, Hispanic stories have been underrepresented, and this Pixar movie tells us a compelling story while also informing us more about another culture that exists in our real world. It makes for just as compelling a story as talking robots, and it is a welcome new perspective. Perhaps this is the new frontier in animated film storytelling, with the Pixar/Disney telling new stories from cultures from around the world with “Moana” and “Coco.” If they are anything like “Coco,” then I am looking forward to it.