Movie Review: Coco
SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you don’t have a problem with crying in a movie theater, you love music, and you have no problem with Pixar as a whole.
The General Gist:
The latest Pixar installment, Coco, is phenomenal. I just want to come right out of the gate and make that as clear as possible. The film follows 12-year-old Miguel Rivera as he tries to cope with a family that scorns his love of music. Miguel finds himself transported into the Land of the Dead after a mix-up at the tomb of deceased Mexican musical legend, Ernesto de la Cruz, on the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos). The young boy has to find his way back to the Land of the Living all while learning about his family’s history and various wholesome life lessons regarding humility, family values, and following your passion. Although that description may make Coco sound like a formulaic Disney cinematic experience, the movie finds ways to break traditional norms and explore new territory for this genre.
I do not think that there is any problem with a fully-grown man enjoying a movie clearly designed for children. That is part of the secret sauce (or not-so-secret) of Pixar’s continued success. The films they make that are exceptionally well-received are typically capable of crossing generational gaps – having something for kids, their older siblings, their babysitters, their parents, and their grandparents. As an advocate of going-to-the-movies-by-yourself, I am not even totally concerned when I see a 40 year old man at the theater by himself for a Pixar production – you do you buddy.
Coco is no exception to this rule. The film was so well done, so brilliant, so beautiful, and so clever, that it was also able to cross cultural gaps. It is the kind of cultural and spiritual journey that makes you want to learn Spanish and take guitar lessons. The music is exceptional and songs like Un Poco Loco and Remember Me will be stuck in your head for days and weeks after your viewing. The jokes are not as strong in this movie as in every Pixar film, but the ones that do land are pretty memorable. The character development is incredible and the attachment the viewer will have toward the Rivera Family at the end of the film is gut-wrenching. There are various moments during the film where I had to collect my jaw off of the floor because the color and visual experience was so astounding.
I know it sounds like I am completely drooling over this movie, but there is something about it that makes it stand out even among its peers. In my opinion, 2017 has been a great year for film and television an Coco is a tremendous example of how/why. A risk was taken and a new direction was followed helmed by a familiar voice and financed by a studio large enough to have a GDP the size of some small countries. This is not the first time that scenario occurred this year and I think more creative media will be created in this manner.
In every movie that I see, I am not afraid to suspend disbelief. It is a critical component of really buying into a world and wanting to connect with a character and a story. In a children’s movie, my willingness to suspend disbelief is even higher. The whole reason I go to see a movie like this is because I typically want to escape the current world. If I was seeking serious introspection or a strong current allegory, I might have seen a movie like The Post or Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. However, I couldn’t help but try and figure out what the entire economy was like in the Land of the Living. Specifically: what was the deal with the governmental labor force?
In a world where the most important day of the year is the Day of the Dead, how do they find government workers who are willing to sit behind a desk and field questions? Do these workers work in various shifts? How do the shifts work? What are these employees being compensated with? How does compensation even work in this universe? I found myself very confused by the labor supply and demand in general, which I know seems like a silly gripe, but I am an economist, after all. These are things that keep me up at night!
Overall, this is an incredible work of art. Take your kids, grandkids, significant others, dogs, cats, and spirit animals to see this film. Once you walk out of your viewing, I will meet you at Spanish class.