Thanksgiving, the holiday of turkey, football, preparation for materialistic shopping, and…Disney. If you are an avid movie goer, you know the mega corporation is all about capitalizing on the holiday with one of their famous animation movies. This year is no different, with Walt Disney Animation Studios taking a step back and allowing Pixar to come in with another big hit to sweep best picture category at the Oscars. Tonight, yours truly hits the theater to scope out Coco, the Hispanic story of music, family, and the dead. Robbie K here with another review, let us get started.
The Animation: Pixar/Disney are the kings of animation, and they have proven themselves again in this CGI masterpiece. Coco’s characters are dynamic, presented in so many forms that give the family a spectrum of characters. Despite a majority of the cast looking carbon copied version of skeletons, Pixar managed to inject subtle differences to make primary and secondary characters stand out. The living members also got the anatomy altered as well, going so far to represent all stage of life (i.e. old and senile, young and energetic, and even pregnant). Past designs, the movement itself is incredibly detailed. The subtle gestures in walking/running, the accurate capture of facial gestures for conversation, and more importantly the incredible finger motions of Miguel and cast playing the guitar. A statement of Pixar having incredible attention to detail wasn’t kidding, because this thing was gorgeous.
Spirit animals: One stand out feature of this movie are the cool spirt animals that inhabit the land of the undead. The flying jaguar, while one of the most outstanding displays, is only the tip of the iceberg, and these creatures are sprawled out in the world. I found it cool to see the creativity of blending common animals into a piñata like creation, each feature designed to add finesse and flare to mix and represent the culture of Mexico.
The Culture: Disney movies always have a way of capturing an element of the real world. Coco’s theme is all about the Mexican culture and the various customs that we as viewers only have an inkling of understanding. Pixar managed to bring that culture to life not only in design, but in the story, they have developed in this tale. Their belief in the afterlife is the foundation this tale is built on, allowing other things like soap operas, fiestas, food, and the western film culture. And within all these elements are the important customs of family, the passion of music, and the pursuit of dreams through hard work. All of these are beautifully integrated into the mix, occasionally crossing into cheesy territory, to craft a very stirring tale.
The Music: By far the biggest element for me though, has to be the music of Coco. Disney is always spectacular with their soundtracks, but Coco stands out to me as one of the more unique sets of music to come out of the studio. Instead of grandiose symphonies, or Oscar designed symphonies, Coco’s music is all about representing the musical culture of Mexico. Each song builds around the acoustic guitar as the primary instrument in its calm, yet vibrant strings. Such a simple instrument packs an emotional kick, especially once the supporting instruments and the voice bellow out to unleash the pent-up emotion of our characters. The songs build into the story, and are used as the primary tools for accomplishing Miguel’s goals and represents a variety of artistic styles this culture has. It’s dynamic, it’s fun, and its relevant to the story, all big points in this reviewer’s eyes.
The opening short: While separate, the opening number is still part of the show. Olaf’s frozen adventure, while cute, was just another compilation of short songs to refresh Disney’s cash cow for the last few years. Sure, some of the songs are powerful (the ending in particular), and the message tugs at my strings, but it lacked a lot of sustenance for just more songs. Thank goodness Coco’s music redeemed this quality.
More with the creatures: I like the spirit animals, I just didn’t like how much of a background they were. With such cool concepts, you think that Disney would have found a way to capitalize on these monsters’ involvement in the world whether it be searching for clues, chasing our heroes, or having more bang in the final setting. Even without their integration, the studio downplayed their powers a bit, showing inconsistencies with the potential they developed in these creatures.
Lackluster Excitement: Thinking back to Pixar’s previous works, there are usually those edge on the seat moments that have you questioning the fate of the heroes (Toy Story, Incredibles, even Cars). Coco not so much for me. The movie stays pretty safe, with predictable antics, calm action scenes, and a final obstacle that didn’t do much for me in the suspense role. There seemed to be little hindrance to our character’s journey, and in many cases that hindered the development we could have seen. This film blows the cultural relevance out of the water, yet it still missed its potential for a complete package without the action.
Many Book of Life elements: This movie stands out on its own in so many concepts and the songs are much more original. Yet, there is a lot of this movie based off of Book of Life, and in many cases less vibrant and unique than the predecessor. In my opinion, I felt the Book of Life was the more exciting of the two tales and I like this design more than the scale this one took. Still, Coco holds a lot of finesse that the Book failed to have.
Coco is certainly one of the more culturally relevant Pixar movies to come out of the studio. It’s design and animation are gorgeous, the creativity is on point, and so much of it is packed with tasteful portrayals of this beautiful culture. Yet, it still has a few shortcomings for me to make it a perfect movie. They dropped some of the potential they built up and the excitement element could have been amped up with more struggles as well. When all is said and done though, Coco is by far one of the better films to hit the theaters this November and I strongly encourage many to flood the theaters and scope it out. And for those with little ones obsessed with Frozen, this movie is only going to be better for them.
Movie Overall: 8.5