Pixar, just like many Hollywood studios, has fallen into the sequlitis wave, their last fully original film was back in 2015 with The Good Dinosaur, and even that was an adaptation of a children’s book. The next slate of movies in the future is also filled with sequels from The Incredibles 2 in 2018 to Toy Story 4 in 2019. This makes Coco, the studio’s latest release, a breath of fresh air and creativity.
Coco is the story of Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) in Mexico during the famous celebration of Dia de Muertos. Miguel is a young boy in love with music, but stuck with a family of shoemakers who’ve banned music from their family. In a bid to push for his dream Miguel mistakenly steps into the land of the dead where he meets all his deceased ancestors. The film then follows Miguel as he seeks to return to the land of the living before the day is up and he’s stuck in this other realm forever.
What will strike people from the get-go is the incredible research done on Mexican culture, and the care with which it has been implemented into the story. There are no caricatures, as would normally be expected of a big studio adaptation of a culture, but instead many inside jokes that, not only Mexicans, but also many Hispanics will get. The other striking aspect of the film is the beautiful animation, the quality of the skin on many of the characters (especially an old ‘abuelita’s’ wrinkles) is breathtaking, not to mention the innovating rendered visions of the skeletons that populate the land of the dead. And then there’s the production design of the world, so detailed you want to pause the film and watch frame by frame to catch everything. It’s no wonder it took the filmmakers close to 7 years to make this film.
The story never feels clunky or preachy, like most family films are prone to do, but instead passes on the values of family and ambition with subtle ease. However, there were certain noticeable difficulties in transitioning from settings. The execution of individual scenes was impeccable, but after the sequences were finished, the story forced the characters to move along in very conspicuous ways.
Nevertheless, this doesn’t detract enough from the wonderful film that is Coco. The cultural setting is lush for many who have never seen this world properly before; the story and characters are fun, and the filmmakers expertly prevent this film from falling into a lazy family flick. Overall, another win for Pixar.