The 400-Word Review: Coco
By Sean Collier
November 30, 2017
The question with Pixar films — outside of the spotty “Cars” franchise — is not whether or not they’ll be good; they’re always good. Rather, all one is left to wonder is whether or not the latest entry from the storied studio will surpass all that have come before it. Is the latest Pixar offering an Up, or a mere Ratatouille?
Both of those are quite good, of course, so either result is fine.
Coco is lovely, moving and funny, although it nestles in somewhere among the lesser half of Pixar films. Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) pilfers his late idol’s guitar on the Day of the Dead, a transgression which sends him out of the mortal world and into the Land of the Dead, where the dearly departed — rendered as exuberant skeletons in the style of Dia de Muertos regalia — survive on the remembrance of the living.
Miguel’s family — both late and current — strongly disapprove of music, owing to a generations-old betrayal by a traveling guitarist. Fortunately, mischievous skeleton Hector (Gael García Bernal) has a plan to get Miguel back to the land of the living and set things right — if Miguel can help him in return.
Visually, Coco is breathtaking. Beautiful landscapes and vivid color fight for attention against inventive physical humor; this is a movie which draws its joy (and the audience’s laughter) from not only the script but also the visual language employed by the filmmakers (always a team effort with computer animation; Toy Story 3 helmer Lee Unkrich is Coco’s director).
And it is quite funny, with the necessary moments of poignancy which have become de rigueur for the studio. You’ll laugh. The kids will laugh. It’s a good time.
Is it worth criticizing such a lovely film — particularly when, blessedly, that film is a rare instance of minority representation for the studio? If only to justify the statement that Coco is not one of Pixar’s finest, I think it is.
All of Coco’s splendor is in its look; it is beautiful and captivating to the eye. The story, however, is stock stuff. The family that hates the medium of the free-spirit child, the trickster who can help the hero for a price, the eventual twist — all are cliched. The story works, because such tales do; we expect more, however, from Pixar.
It hardly matters, though. Coco is a marvel.
My Rating: 8/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark