Quick Review: Coco

The wife and I finally got around to renting Coco, the most recent film from Pixar. In the past I used to be a stickler for seeing Pixar films in the theater, as they were one of my favorite studios for storytelling and stunning visuals. However, as the kids got older, and life got busier, we just don’t get to the theater as much as we want.

We had heard a lot of great things about Coco, but I was lucky enough to go into it now really knowing anything significant. All I knew is that it involved a young boy who liked to play music, and somehow ended up in the land of the dead. I didn’t know anything else about the story, and I liked it that way. From this point on **** SPOILERS ****

What I discovered was a wonderful tale about a young boy who just wanted to play music, but his family forbid it because of the breakup of their patriarch’s marriage by her musician husband. You just can’t keep a child away from music though, and so our young hero Miguel secretly plays in his hideout, and worships his idol Ernesto de la Cruz, the greatest musician ever.

While stealing Ernesto’s guitar to play in a talent show he accidentally gets transported to the land of the dead (on the Day of the Dead), and the adventure begins. As Miguel learns more about his family history he believes that de la Cruz is his ancestor. However, in the final chapter of the story he learns the truth, that the lovable Hector is his true ancestor, and that de la Cruz murdered him and stole his songs. Hector eventually returns to the land of the living and the truth of the family history is revealed by Hector’s elderly daughter. The family learns to love music again, and all is happy.

If I had one complaint about the movie, it’s that the story was very predictable. Very shortly after meeting Hector I started to piece together that he was actually Miguel’s ancestor, and I was proven right in the end. The tale of a family that rejects music is very familiar to me as well, but I just can’t place it. I almost feel like it was from a children’s book that I read to my kids.

This minor quibble aside, I really enjoyed the film. Even a familiar story, told well, can be incredibly entertaining and touching. In fact there were some tears shed in the end, despite the happy ending. One element that I did find very original though was the notion of forgetting your ancestors, causing them to disappear from the land of the dead. We often struggle with the idea of legacy in our lives, and this movie brought it home in a big way. What will people remember you for? Or will they remember you at all?

Coco gets at some deep questions as it tells a simple, sweet tale. It’s classic Pixar; beautifully rendered and paced. Despite missing it on the big screen, I’m glad we eventually saw it. It’s a worthy addition to the Pixar canon.

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