Coco is the 19th animated feature film released by Pixar Animated Studios and is directed by Lee Unkrich along with co-director Adrian Molina. When I started to see advertising for this movie about two years ago, I was immediately a little bit nervous. This is because of a similar style of movie that came out in 2014 called The Book of Life, that was also about the Day of the Dead. I was worried that Coco would be too similar to that lackluster movie, and thus would maybe not attract the kind of box office that it deserves. I was also nervous when I saw that the short, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure, was going to be shown in theaters with Coco. I assumed this was a desperate attempt from Disney to draw bigger crowds to the theaters because of poor pre-release box office projections. Thankfully, I can truthfully tell you all that Coco is very different from The Book of Life, and it is not a film that Pixar will be ashamed of in the slightest.
A Few Words About Olaf’s Frozen Adventure
I don’t think many people in the theater I was in were expecting this “short-film” to be playing before Coco. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was originally intended to premiere on TV this holiday season but was paired with Coco fairly late in the process. This short is a minute or 2 above the 20-minute mark but I didn’t find it unnecessary. It was really funny, cute, and had some good original music. They even gave Kristoff a song! It’s not something to write home about but I’m happy that it preceded Coco. Now on to the real review.
For a decently large portion of this movie, I was really sold on the motivation that drove the plot and the message that was being sent to the audience. For a while, it seemed like the movie was trying to make the case that it ok to choose music over family if that is what makes you happy. That didn’t seem like a Disney message to me but they did turn the tables in the end and clarify that the real message is actually the opposite.
This is kind of a cliche story that we have all heard before. Not to spoiler it all for you, but raise your hand if you haven’t heard a story about someone who has a passion that he can’t pursue for some reason and they have to go on some journey and in the end, everyone learns something about themselves and it turns out great for all sides. Maybe some of you but certainly not myself. The point is, it’s not a new concept. However, it’s not the plot line that makes this film so special.
Coco is visually brilliant. It is full of vibrant colors and eye-catching details. Pixar also steps up their game for each and every new feature film and Coco was no exception. There were a few wide shots in the land of the dead that were pretty incredible. One, in particular, was right when Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) was initially crossed the bridge into the land of the dead. They give you wide shot of the incredible colors and detail of the city. The most impressive bit of animation that Pixar did for Coco was the animation of the guitar picking. I don’t play guitar myself, but apparently they animated the actual fingerings for the notes being played on the guitar. Pretty impressive stuff!
The music is very well done in this film and there are some very catchy songs that I will likely be adding to my Disney Tunes playlist (follow me on Spotify). They felt very culturally appropriate and really makes it feel like a movie about Hispanic tradition. I also found the voice cast to be very solid and well-selected. They were all of Spanish speaking backgrounds so all of their accents were very authentic.
For a movie that has some rather dark thematic elements, Coco does a fantastic job of incorporating a playful and light-hearted mood throughout. There are some funny moments, there are some sad moments, and there are some suspenseful moments, but overall, I would consider this more of a heartwarmer than anything else.
Throughout the majority of this film, I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t thinking that it was anything really special for the most part. Then there is this scene at the end that really gave me an entirely new perspective of the movie. Once again, I refuse to spoil it for anyone who may still want to experience it for themselves, but it is simply a beautiful and emotional scene that wraps up the movie in a way that I haven’t really gotten from a movie in a long time.
Coco is being advertised as the best Pixar movie since Toy Story 3. I would personally rank Inside Out ahead because of how great of an original concept it was versus the cliche storyline that Coco follows. However, the argument is definitely there and for good reason. Coco is a beautifully animated film that really gives its audiences the feels at the end and has been notorious for bringing out a few tears as well. This was a must-see on my list and after seeing it I would definitely suggest that you put it on yours.