“Coco” works great on paper. It’s another big concept Pixar film about interpersonal relationships. Plus, it plays super sad right around the Holidays. The Pixar team gets that appeal to animation, but there’s something different happening here. While the plot bares an insane semblance to previous works such as “The Book of Life” and “Grim Fandango”; it also wants to fit in the ill-defined world of Pixar. Does that mean we should expect to see sentient toys and Wall-E show up? Not exactly.
What it means is that emotion rules intellect, but emotion also is deployed to make the audience look past the bare-bones nature of the story. While researching the film, I learned about the film’s original plot. It makes sense that the film was originally about a kid dealing with grief, even though that flies in the face of the Day of the Dead festivities. But, now the film exists as a kid trying to learn his family’s hidden stories as away of honoring his ancestors. What is lost here?
Well, the removal of high concepts like grief turns this into another quest movie. The quest movie is an animation and kid cinema staple, but it also makes a rather interesting film pretty standard. After all, who really cares about a kid going into the Underworld to learn why his family doesn’t play music? It’s really nothing more than a delayed set-up for an emotional punch. Pixar knows better.
When the audience discovers Jesse’s abandonment issues in “Toy Story 2”, the build is earned and hits like a gut punch. For most of “Coco”, the audience is waiting for a big reveal that has been telegraphed from 10 minutes into the feature. Between this and the Frozen short at the start of the film, it feels very much like a compromise. I get that Disney is a little gun shy about a film like this, but come about it honestly.
While I’d love for a film like this to top the Box Office, I feel very reserved about its financial success in America. Is it great? No. But, it’s better than half of Pixar’s fare in the last 7 years. If you’re hard pressed for a movie during the Holidays, I’d recommend checking it out. While that doesn’t sound like a recommendation, take it as one.
- 1 hr and 49 mins