Pixar has never shied away from death in their movie, but Coco makes you more okay with it, touching upon something that is close to all of us.
Aside from the underwhelming–and long–Frozen short prefacing this film, Coco is easily the studio’s best release since 2010’s Toy Story 3, ending a long streak of sub-par entries.
Even the “beloved” Inside Out felt like somewhat of a forced concept which sounded better on paper.
For the first time we get a narrative that doesn’t just show us the way. It almost acts as a mystery of sorts, revealing itself slowly, keeping us at the edge of our seats. It’s a film that’s very aware of itself in that way, becoming one of the smartest animated movies you’ll ever see.
Coco follows a young boy, Miguel, who dreams of becoming a famous musician. Up until now, he’s had to practice in secret due to his family’s ban on music, which was implemented when his great-grandmother was a child. Her father was a guitar player who left her and her mother to pursue his dreams.
Miguel rebels against these restrictions. And after a series of events, he winds up in the Land of the Dead during Dia de Muertos–a Mexican holiday where the living celebrate their deceased ancestors by inviting them back to the Land of the Living for one night.
Just like most of their films, the comedy is never in your face, counting on the story to carry it–which should be most people’s preference.
But the humor in Coco is even more reserved than usual. The tone is a lot more serious. Perhaps due to its darker subject matter.
We also don’t really get the same kind of marketability as usual, which is interesting. Similar to Pixar’s Brave, it’s a movie that relies on its intricate plot rather than cheap laughs or unnecessary characters. It’s mature.
And the scenery and beautiful colors are enough for younger kids to latch on to, if nothing else. Pixar has created their most impressive world since Monsters, Inc. in 2001.
Coco does an excellent job painting the picture of how souls go back and forth between the Lands of the Dead and the Living. However, the film does have some porous logic involving the details of how a soul survives in the spirit world. Once a soul is forgotten about by the living, it ceases to exist in the Land of the Dead. We’re unsure what happens to them afterwards, which is a nice touch. But there’s also some overlap in how it happens to begin with. Maybe I’m just missing something.
In the end, those aren’t the details that matter as much to this film. It’s a near-perfect execution of a concept that’s yet to be touched by Pixar. Hopefully, this sparks another nice run from them. I miss the old Pixar.