When I saw the preview for Coco I was a little worried that this going to be a rip-off of The Book Of Life. For those of you who missed it or completely forgot immediately after watching it, The Book of Life was another animated movie about the Day of the Dead colors dialled right up to 11. But the only good thing about The Book of Life was the Mexican Underworld, which I loved so much I didn’t want to admit my disappointment with that film. Would Pixar be able to make a better movie from such a good location? The answer is: Yes. Good god yes, of course yes of course they did. How could I have been worried?
Aspiring musician Miguel, confronted with his family’s ancestral ban on music, enters the Land of the Dead to work out the mystery.
So what saved Coco from the same fate as Book of Life? I think it’s because Coco was a solid, relatable story. It’s about the obligations (and support) of family versus the need to be different and follow through with your dreams. Who hasn’t experienced at least one of those things? Sure every family is different – mine never wielded shoes as a weapon for example, but still, as a story it’s pretty universal. It’s easy to care about the characters and empathize with them. Another plus was just how much time they spent in the Land of the Dead. It was a lot, which makes sense because wouldn’t you want to give the coolest part of your movie the most screen of time?
Visually, Coco was gorgeous. I shouldn’t go on about this, of course it’s beautiful and colourful, it’s a Pixar movie for heaven’s sake. But the sheer unsaturated brilliance of the Land of the Dead is impressive by any standard. And the writing. Again Pixar, but still, it’s so easy to forget the fundamentals. In any movie, the hero should have a definite measurable goal and a plan to get that goal. At any given time he should have a rough idea where he is in relation to that goal, or at least the next stage in plan. Movies that are otherwise good fail when it comes to this.
I think my favorite thing about Coco (besides the color) was the level of detail everything had. Things made sense, the world has its own internal logic; everything had a system that could be understood. Even the weird stuff made sense, like crossing between the between worlds on a bridge made of flower petals, seemed ‘real’ because it had border station complete with passport system and customs inspection. If you were not approved to cross the petal bridge, you didn’t cross the petal bridge. There were a thousand tiny details just like that and it made the world seem emotionally and logistically real.
So is Coco worth watching? Yes absolutely, I’m going to see it again in theaters. I’m even going to buy the toys. There should be toys, it’s Disney, right? God I hope so. If you see the movie it shouldn’t be hard to guess the one I want, either. I’ve been careful not to spoil anything here, but there are creatures in this movie that are unspeakably awesome. If this had somehow had Channing Tatum in it, this would have hit every possible base for me. I think my favorite thing about Pixar is they make something different every time. Same quality, different movie, unlike some superhero franchises I could mention.