Happy Dia de Muertos!
Coco is one of the great post-golden age Pixar films, and one of Pixar’s most potent tearjerkers ever. Its central theme of balancing one’s identity between their family roots and their self-guided expression is powerfully explored. I should note that Coco hits extra hard if you are holding your 4-year-old’s hand when “Remember Me” plays late in the film; I was bawling like a baby.
Pixar’s films are always on the cutting edge of animation tech. Nearly half a decade later, this film still looks stunning: gorgeous neon colors, phenomenal human models and animation (some of the best in CGI history), expressive gangly skeletons, and a dusty hominess to the streets of Mexico. It all fits together in a beautiful artistic tableau, with some world-class cinematography that makes it impossible to look away. My daughters especially loved the silly energy of Dante the doggo.
What keeps Coco from the tippy top of Pixar’s pantheon is a bunch of little story and screenplay annoyances that pile up. Many side characters are introduced but not given much purpose or depth or things to do; certain story beats repeat to diminishing returns (like the “you love music? I thought you hated it!” reveal for at least 2 characters); the encroaching threat of sunrise and eternal death seems haphazardly daunting, sometimes urgent, sometimes forgotten; and the shameless use of one of my least favorite plot contrivances: a character we happen to bump into in one of the first scenes and hang around with just coincidentally ends up being the exact most important character of the story.
There’s also just a little something missing from the time spent in the City of the Dead. Its sense of spatial geography is not nearly as physical as I’d hoped: Despite some effort by the film to convey its hugeness, it’s always tough to know where we are relative to previous places we’ve been, and how far we’ve traveled. And then we zig-zag back and forth between locations willy-nilly in the final act.
Despite my minor hangups, this is one of Pixar’s best of the past decade, and one that wallops my heart and tear ducts every time.
Very Good (6/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.