Good day, geeks. Big Eyes here, bringing you a mostly spoiler free review on Pixar’s latest baby “Coco”!
This movie follows a boy named Miguel (not Manolo) who wants to pursue their dream of being a musician, against their family’s wishes. After an unfortunate event happens on Dia de los Muertos, he finds himself in the Land of the Dead, and his only way out is to tie up loose ends for his family both living and dead.
If you’re thinking that you’ve seen this movie before, then you’re right. Back in 2014, a movie called “Book of Life” had the exact same premise. One of the writers claimed that production for “Coco” began as soon as 2011. Now, there’s nothing wrong with telling a different story with the same premise, but only three years later seems a bit too soon. This actually isn’t the first that Pixar has used an idea that has been previously done. For example: “Inside Out”. The idea of “the people in your head are your emotions” has been represented in a number of animated shorts I can think of off the top of my head; that didn’t stop me from enjoying “Inside Out”. However, the stories between “Book of Life” and “Coco” were just too similar. Sure, “Coco” developed some things in its own interesting way, but it was still mostly the same. (For fuck’s sake, both movies had a set of twin skeleton relatives!) So when it comes to analyzing “Coco”, I can’t help but compare the two on a couple of other things as well. (If you haven’t seen “Book of Life” I highly recommend it.)
When it came to art and design, “Coco” pales in comparison to “Book of Life”. Everything in “Book of Life” was just so beautifully stylized, and seemed to suit the story so well. The style that Pixar always uses for their movies just didn’t feel natural in “Coco”, except for scenes in the land of the living. The design of the skeletons were kind of ugly, and the design of the Land of the Dead came off as pretty plain.
What “Coco” truly does shine through on is what Pixar does best, tugging at the heartstrings. I left the theater feeling pretty good after being on the brink of tears toward the end of the movie. They even got me going early on in the movie as well. “Coco” was very touching, and definitely far more emotional than “Book of Life”. They also go on to explore the healing power of music, and it’s ability to draw memory, which is a concept I think deserves to be talked about a little more.
There have been some very fascinating studies done investigating the effects of music on people with alzheimer's disease. Results have found that when hearing familiar music from their youth, alzheimer's sufferers can go from being completely unresponsive to dancing, others can temporarily regain abilities. Many memories are formed based on how they made you feel, and music can draw those emotions forward, bringing back memories vividly. It’s a beautiful thing, and plays a big part in “Coco”.
Moving on with the review, there is a scene that somewhat perplexed me. Miguel has just finished rigging together a perfectly working guitar, and then starts playing it along with old movies starring his idol.
First off, for a kid who has been kept away from music, and only able to enjoy it in secret: he is very well informed in how a guitar works. All the way from the tuning of the strings to very accurate placement of the frets. I get that this kid is a musical prodigy, but they make it look like this is his first time playing his make-shift guitar, and plays it like he’s been playing for years and years. I know that it’s a feel good Pixar movie, but nothing about that scene beyond his genuine admiration for his idol just wasn't believable. I will give this to the animators: they did a fantastic job accurately animating the finger movements for holding chords, strumming, and picking. That is not an easy thing to do. I would also like to give kudos to their realistic water animation.
My observation about the movie, is that it is a really interesting time in this political climate to release a movie like “Coco”. Some are saying it’s a defiance against President Trump, and honors Mexico. I don’t think that the former was the intention of “Coco” if the production began way back in 2011. Nonetheless, perhaps this movie will make some immigrants feel a little more wanted in where they are living in this country, the United States.
Finally, was “Coco” good? I was very conflicted on the matter, but I want to say yes. The visuals may not be great as I believe they could be, but I will remember how the movie made me feel. I will definitely watch it again.
Go see “Coco” if you’re ready for a case of the “feels”.
“Coco” is set for release on November 22, 2017. Some theaters are doing late showings of it on the 21st.
Thanks for reading,
~ Big Eyes
A little something extra:
Pixar is well known for their award-winning shorts that play before their movies. I was excited for the short this time around. Heck, I’m always excited to see them… Yeah, so... there isn’t a Pixar short. Instead there is a short from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Frozen”, called “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”. I’m not reviewing that, but if you’d like to learn more, check out this trailer for it: