Movie review: Pixar’s Coco is an emotional, musical triumph

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The story of Coco plays out around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, and stars the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Noel Ubach and Renée Victor. Courtesy of Walt Disney pictures The story of Coco plays out around the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, and stars the voices of Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Noel Ubach and Renée Victor. Courtesy of Walt Disney pictures

Before you ask, yes, you will cry at Coco. No matter how many Pixar movies you’ve seen, no matter how much tolerance you’ve built up to their brand of touching sincerity, and no matter how far into this particular outing you get without shedding a tear, you will have a small puddle at the bottom of your 3-D glasses by the time the movie ends.

Coco is Pixar’s newest effort of injecting magic emotion into every conceivable idea, from inanimate objects (Toy Story, Cars) to creatures in your closet (Monsters, Inc.) to even emotions themselves (Inside Out). Everything we create as humans, and attach meaning to, is fair game, as it should be. A toy is nothing without part of you believing that it’s real, monsters are figments of our overactive imaginations and culminations of our anxieties, and emotions with no human vessel cease to exist. As Pixar’s stories become increasingly abstract and unpredictable, their astounding success appears to be rooted in a keen understanding of why we have emotions at all. Pixar simply taps into the narratives we, as individuals and a society, have already created for ourselves, leaving the studio to simply remind us why they matter.

Coco
PG, 109 minutes
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX and Violet Crown Cinema

The story follows Miguel, a young boy in a small Mexican town who comes from a tight-knit family that has dedicated itself to the art of shoemaking for four generations. Miguel is a talented musician, but he keeps his guitar in a secret room along with pictures and videotapes of his favorite musician, Ernesto de la Cruz. Miguel hides his skill and passion because the whole reason the family began shoemaking was as a rejection of music after Miguel’s great-grandfather left to pursue a life in music—singing and playing instruments has been forbidden ever since.

Miguel comes to believe that de la Cruz, the superstar himself, is that very same great-grandfather who left, and that it is his duty to his ancestor to pursue music. So, on Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead, when families honor their members who have passed on—Miguel, against his family’s wishes, goes to borrow de la Cruz’s guitar to compete in a music competition. The guitar is in the singer’s tomb, and when he picks it up, he is transported to a place where the dead actually walk among the living, collecting food and artifacts left for them as part of Dia de los Muertos celebrations. Miguel then has to return to the land of the living before sunrise while also procuring the blessing of his family to pursue music.

Any story involving the memory of loved ones is ripe for emotional exploration, and the fear of being forgotten is possibly more terrifying than death itself. Coco is a terrific celebration of the culture it represents, featuring an A-list cast of Mexican and Mexican-American performers (Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Renée Victor and Edward James Olmos). It condenses the meaning of the holiday then fully embodies it with its story and visuals, without oversimplifying or essentializing. The film follows a few predictable beats, though even the most cynical observer will not be able to resist the power of its emotional resolution. With Coco, Pixar continues to prove that no idea is off-limits to a good storyteller.


Playing this week

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
377 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056

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Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213

A Bad Moms Christmas, Daddy’s Home 2, Justice League, Lady Bird, Murder on the Orient Express, Roman J. Israel, Esq., The Star, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder

Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000

Justice League, Lady Bird, Loving Vincent, Murder on the Orient Express, The Man Who Invented Christmas, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder

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