Hot Take: Damn you, Pixar! Yet another tug at the heart strings from the makers of Toy Story, Wall-E, Up, Inside Out and unexpected emotional breakdowns during animated films.
Pixar hasn’t just mastered the art of animation. They’ve also mastered the ability to take what’s essentially a kid’s genre and make it all ages fare and consistently provide enough emotional ammunition to bring even the most closed off curmudgeon to tears. (Although that’s not me… I’m a pretty easy mark.) Coco is the latest in Pixar’s arsenal of films that are usually technically perfect, family oriented and ready to bring you to tears before the credits roll. In typical Pixar fashion, Coco is both inspirational and heart-breaking and delivers all the feels you’ve come to expect from the master animators.
Coco follows Miguel (voiced by Anthony Gonzalez) who aspires to be a famous musician like his hero Ernesto de la Cruz (voiced by Benjamin Bratt) but his family has banned music from their lives. On the Day of the Dead, Miguel decides to defy his family and enter a singing competition but his family forbids it. He decides to steal de la Cruz’s guitar to enter and when he does he is transported to the Land of the Dead where he must receive the blessing of one of his dead family members to return to the world of the living. Unfortunately, Miguel’s blessing comes with conditions that he can’t accept (he must never play music again) and instead he sneaks out his hero Ernesto who he also believes he is descended from.
Coco‘s depiction of Mexico and the Land of the Dead is especially beautiful artistically. While it might not be the story of some previous Pixar efforts, it definitely works better than The Good Dinosaur and has the cultural affinity and respect for the Mexican heritage similar to what Moana (another Disney film but not Pixar) was for the Polynesian islands. Perfectly fine for children but also great for adults, it’s Pixar’s perfected style of doing things that make films like Coco such a cash cow but not at the detriment of the quality of the product like some other animated films have a habit of doing.
What’s really special about these Pixar films is how while in the moment you don’t realize how formulaic they are until you sit back and think about it. Coco is no exception as the names and settings are changed but essentially, the plot twists and turns are all the same. Despite there not being too many new twists (just new disguises for those twists to wear), Coco still manages to feel fresh and new. If you have kids, this one is a no brainer. If you don’t, it’s still one worth getting to the theater to see.
Because Pixar will remind you of your softer, sentimental side.
You’re out of Kleenex.